Benjamin "Kamau" Hosch III , 5, drowned at Cochran Mill Nature Center Friday. (Family photo via press conference)

Parents of camper who drowned hope charges send strong message

He should be a kindergarten student, excited to celebrate his 6th birthday later this month. Instead, the family of Benjamin “Kamau” Hosch III will have a small celebration in memory of the young boy.

“My heart is broken, my husband’s heart is broken,” Ayisat Idris-Hosch, the boy’s mother told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We had dreams. We had all of these different ideas and dreams we were going to do with our children. It was taken from us because someone decided to not do their job.”

Kamau drowned July 21 while attending a summer camp at Cochran Mill Nature Center in south Fulton County. His parents said the Tuesday indictments against two people in charge of the camp should put other childcare providers on alert. 

“If you say you are going to watch a child, that is your main duty, to not take your eyes off of those children,” Idris-Hosch said. 

Kamau was attending the final day of Camp Cricket summer day camp when he disappeared after lunch. The 13 campers in his group, accompanied by three camp staff members, had been allowed to splash in shallow water, according to investigators. 

But Kamau somehow wandered away unnoticed by the adults with his group. After he was noticed missing, it took another half-hour to locate him in the water. He was unresponsive and later died at the hospital. 

Kamau’s parents said they were not aware he would be allowed to slide down down into a pond without a life jacket. They also weren’t notified while the camp was searching for him. 

Police are investigating a 5-year-old child’s drowning at Cochran Mill Nature Center, authorities told The Newnan Times-Herald. Johnny Crawford/Jcrawford@ajc.com
Photo: Johnny Crawford/Jcrawford@ajc.com

Terri Clark, the director of the nature center day camp, was indicted on one count of involuntary manslaughter and a misdemeanor reckless conduct charge, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said. The president of the board of directors for the nature center, Maribeth Wansley, faces one misdemeanor count of operating an early childhood learning center without a license. Neither Clark nor Wansley were in custody early Wednesday. 

Howard said camp employees knew Kamau had a tendency to wander off, yet did nothing to improve the supervision. 

“That led to the child striking his head and falling into the water there,” the district attorney said. “Even after the child was laying unconscious and drowning, it took an unreasonable time just to locate the child.”

In the days following the boy’s death, the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning determined the camp was not licensed and shut it down. 

Georgia law allows for a child care service to file for exemption from state licensing requirements based on the ages of children, duration of the program, hours of operation, specific activities, or when services are offered free of charge, a DECAL spokesman previously said. Camp Cricket had not applied for exempt status from the state.

The camp also did not have a business license to operate, according to Chris Stewart, the Hosch family’s attorney. At the time of the accident, both the Chattahoochee Hills mayor and the city attorney served on the board of directors for the camp. Although the nature center is a non-profit, the camp charged a fee of $120 to attend, meaning it was making a profit and therefore required a license to operate, Stewart said.

On Tuesday, Stewart said the district attorney’s office had conducted a thorough investigation before seeking the indictments.

“We all agree, just like the community did, that an apology was not enough,” Stewart told The AJC.

In addition to his parents, Kamau is survived by a 3-year-old brother. His mother said Tuesday she is expecting, and the family finds some joy in knowing Kamau would have loved another sibling. 

“We keep his memory alive. We cry, we laugh. All of those different emotions come with this,” Idris-Hosch said. “We do feel like with all of this happened for a reason, whether we know what that reason is in our lifetime or not.” 

Kamau would have turned 6 years old April 28.

Her 5-year-old son drowned Friday at the Cochran Mill Nature Center in Palmetto.

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