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3 children dead after drowning incident on Coney Island, mother questioned and then hospitalized

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Police believe mother drowned her 3 small children in Coney Island 02:31

NEW YORK -- Police believe a mother may have drowned her three young children on Monday morning. All of them were under the age of 7.

CBS2's Kevin Rincon heard from neighbors who know the family.

Folks here are devastated to hear what happened. They said the mom, to them, looked like she was trying her best, which is all the more reason they were shocked to know those kids are gone.

Early Monday morning, police embarked on a 90-minute-long frantic search for three kids along the shoreline. They got a call from a concerned relative who believed the children were in danger.

Cops found the mother, 30-year-old Erin Merdy, barefoot and soaking wet. Her kids were eventually discovered two miles away on the beach at West 35th Street in Coney Island.

"The officers immediately initiated life-saving measures, including CPR, on the children and they were rushed to Coney Island Hospital, where they were regrettably pronounced deceased," NYPD Chief of Department Kenneth Corey said.

The kids were identified as 3-month-old Oliver Bondarev, 4-year-old Lilana Merdy, and 7-year-old Zachary Merdy. "Zach Attack" was known on the football field as a standout.

"All the football players, the teammates, everybody, is taking it hard, and the coaches, they're taking it real hard because they love these kids and they put all their work to these kids in the community and it's a shame," one woman said.

Football coach Alfred Brown was emotional after learning he lost one of his boys.

"He always sees me and every time 'It's coach! Coach! Coach!,' so, to not hear him say 'Coach! Coach!' today is heartbreaking," Brown said.

Brown not only saw him on the field, but also at Public School 186.

"I got to give him his trophy on the last day of school last year," Brown said.

Hours after the kids were found, their mother was questioned by police at the 60th Precinct, before being taken away by ambulance.

Many neighbors refused to go on camera, but told Rincon there were warning signs. One man said the kids were left with family for a bit, and wondered why they came back.

"Now I can see a person just snap, because we all have problems. Snap. I mean, really, really snap out of their mind," the man said.

Police say the mom did call family to say she intended to hurt the kids, but wouldn't say why. For now, she remains at the hospital, and charges are pending.

Check below for the latest updates. 


Sources: Investigators believe Coney Island mom who may have drowned her 3 children was suffering from postpartum depression

The Coney Island community is trying to come to terms with the deaths of three young children, possibly at the hands of their mother.

CBS2's Natalie Duddridge reports it's believed she was suffering from postpartum depression.

Click here to read more.

By Natalie Duddridge

Neighbors stunned by shocking drowning deaths

Police believe a mother may have drowned her own three children. 

Investigators say the 30-year-old mother is being questioned after they believe she drowned them at Coney Island beach. 

Police think the three young children were brought to the beach overnight by their mother who police say drowned them. 

Police believe mother drowned 3 children in Coney Island 02:45

They were found unconscious and rushed to Coney Island Hospital, where they couldn't be saved. 

Police escorted the mother into an ambulance and took her to the hospital. 

Police say around 1:40 a.m. Monday, a 911 call came in, leading them to a building on Neptune Avenue where the mother and her children lived just a half mile from the beach. They say the mother's sister called police out of concern that she might harm her three little ones - a 3-month-old boy, a 4-year-old girl, and a 7-year-old boy. 

While inside the building, police ran into the father of one of the kids. He tells police the mother and the children were on the boardwalk, and he too was also concerned about what she might do. 

"The search continued for approximately 90 minutes until the officers, in response to an additional 911 call were directed to Brighton Sixth Street and Riegelmann Boardwalk, which is approximately two miles down the Boardwalk from where we are now. At that location, the officers found the 30-year-old female, believed to be the mother of the three children. She was accompanied by other family members, but not the children," said NYPD Chief of Department Kenneth Corey. 

Authorities say when she was found, her clothes were soaked, and she was barefoot. Her statements to police eventually led them to believe she had something to do with the drowning. More than an hour later, the kids were found just off 35th Street unconscious. The kids were rushed to Coney Island Hospital, where they couldn't be saved. 

"I really didn't know her, but I knew her kids because when I walk my dog, they always wanted to pet the dog and it was devastating to hear," said neighbor Victor Rodriguez. 

Rodriguez was astonished at what happened. 

"Not only people in the building, everybody in Coney Island is talking about it. You know when it involves kids, that's close to home," he said. 

Other neighbors couldn't believe the disturbing details either. One mother says her oldest child is 13, and just the thought of harming any of her kids breaks her heart. 

"The way it happened is sad. It's really sad, 'cause she could've gotten help. Maybe she wasn't too strong to get that help,"  said neighbor Julia Sepulveda. 

Charges against the mother are pending. 

By Elijah Westbrook

Watch: NYPD gives update on drowning incident

NYPD briefing after 3 children die in drowning incident on Coney Island 04:40

NYPD officials gave a briefing on the drowning of 3 children on Coney Island. 

Police said they first responded to a 911 call at around 1:40 a.m. Police say a concerned family member called.

"The caller indicated that she was concerned her family member may have harmed her three small children," said NYPD Chief of Department Kenneth Corey. 

Police went to the woman's apartment but got no reply at her door. In her Neptune Avenue building, they encountered a man who was the father of one the children, Corey said. He told the officers he was also concerned about her, and he believed the woman and the children were on the Boardwalk on Coney Island. 

Officers searched for 90 minutes, when police got another 911 call from about two miles away. Responding officers found the woman, 30, believed to be the mother. She was soaking wet and barefoot, Corey said. There were no children with her, Corey said. 

"At about 4:42 this morning, the officers discovered three children, a 7-year-old male, a 4-year-old female, and another female who's approximately three and half months old, on the shoreline here at the water's edge on West 35th Street in Coney Island," Corey said. 

The officers immediately began CPR and rushed the children to the hospital, where they were pronounced deceased. 

Corey said there's no evidence of any prior abuse or neglect of the children. 

By CBS New York Team

Police: All 3 children declared dead at hospital

3 children dead in drowning incident on Coney Island; Police question their mother 01:27

All three children have been declared dead at the hospital, police said. 

Their mother is being questioned. 

Police responded to the scene after a 911 call came in describing an emotionally disturbed woman walking around. 

Police found the woman on the Boardwalk, and she made statements to the police that led them to search for the kids, according to authorities. 

More details are expected in a news conference later today. 

By CBS New York Team

Police investigating whether mother tried to drown the children

Police investigating whether mother tried to drown 3 children on Coney Island 01:32

Authorities have confirmed the age and gender of the children. 

They say a 3-month-old boy, 4-year-old girl, and 7-year-old boy are all in critical condition. 

Police are investigating whether their mother tried to drown them. 

She is being questioned by police. 

By CBS New York Team

Children in critical condition after being found

3 children found on beach in Coney Island 01:28

Three children have been rushed to the hospital after being located by authorities in Coney Island. 

The children are in critical condition. 

They were found on the beach on 35th Street following a water search. 

Police were called to the scene around 3:20 a.m. 

A 30-year-old woman, who is believed to be the children's mother, is being questioned by police. 

By Elijah Westbrook
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