Victor Jusino of Sunrise said his sons, ages 9 and 10, told him the boy continuously threw away food after the 33 cadets arrived early Wednesday at the Back to Basics Christian Military Academy's Training and Leadership Corps campout.
"They described to me that he wasn't eating. He wasn't feeling well. His stomach was hurting him and the heat was getting to him," Jusino said.
Other cadets gave similar accounts to WFOR-TV in Miami.
"He wasn't eating any food," 12-year-old Joanna Miller said. "He would ask people if they want his food or he would just throw it on the ground. When he was supposed to drink water, he didn't want to."
The academy's principal, Lynda Browne, did not return messages left at the school Sunday. North Miami police have released few details about their investigation into the death early Saturday at Oleta River State Park. An autopsy is pending.
Jusino said his sons told him they were given three meals a day after starting each morning with a long hike. But the boys were dehydrated, sunburned and had insect bites when he picked them up Saturday morning, he said.
"They were very dirty, their clothing was wet. They had been sleeping in wet clothes, and their hair had been cut," Jusino said.
The cadet, whose name has not been released, got out of bed in the middle of the night to tell a drill sergeant he didn't feel well, and collapsed on the way to the bathroom, Browne told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. She said the boy's mother told her that her son "wasn't the most physical, strong or athletic child," the paper reported.
The Lauderhill academy subcontracts with Fort Lauderdale-based Juvenile Military Training and Leadership Corp. The camp is run by certified National Guard drill sergeants, Browne told the paper.
In January, a 14-year-old boy died after a confrontation with guards at a Panama City boot camp for juvenile offenders operated by the Bay County Sheriff's Office. Martin Lee Anderson died one day after being roughed up by guards.
His death remains under investigation. The state's government-operated military-style boot camp system was shutdown in May.