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A 4-year-old boy drowned during a swim lesson. Now, his family wants answers

Four-year-old Izzy Scott drowned in the deep end during his second-ever swim class.
Israel "Izzy" Scott, a 4-year-old boy in Georgia, drowned during his second-ever swim lesson.
Israel "Izzy" Scott, a 4-year-old boy in Georgia, drowned during his second-ever swim lesson.Courtesy Dori Scott
/ Source: TODAY

A family in Georgia wants answers after a 4-year-old boy died during a swim lesson.

Israel "Izzy" Scott was an exuberant kid who loved the Black Panther superhero, dinosaurs and playing with his siblings, ages 11, 3 and 16, according to his parents, Dori and Walt Scott.

Izzy was excited (and nervous) for his very first swim lesson. His mom Dori said they chose a reputable instructor named Lexie TenHuisen, the operator of "Swim With Lexie," who had taught his big sister two years ago.

On June 13, Dori Scott said she drove her son to his first lesson, a group class at a pool in Hephzibah, Georgia, close to their home.

Izzy Scott, 4, died during a swim lesson in Georgia. His parents want answers.
Izzy Scott, 4, died during a swim lesson in Georgia. His parents want answers.Courtesy Dori Scott

When she arrived, Dori said she was told that parents couldn't stay to watch the lesson, to avoid distracting the children.

"I understood because I am a hair stylist and know that children can act differently when their parents are around," Dori Scott told TODAY Parents. "But I didn't want to leave my baby." Still, she waited in the car until the lesson was over.

According to a Burke County Sheriff’s Office report reviewed by TODAY Parents, Dori Scott said that although Izzy had fun at his lesson, he was reluctant to attend the second class on June 14.

“What if I drown?” Izzy asked, his mom later told sheriff's deputies, and she assured him that wouldn’t happen.

But as Dori Scott sat in her car during the second swim lesson she said a parent knocked frantically on her window. "She said, 'Come check on your baby,'" she told TODAY Parents. "I immediately lost it because I saw it in her eyes."

"I went through the gate and saw Izzy laying (next to) the pool unresponsive," said Dori Scott. "A parent was doing CPR but he was limp."

"I said, 'What happened?' and (Lexie) said, 'I don't know,'" said Dori Scott. "It felt like a dream ... a mother's worst nightmare."

Police and first responders arrived and took over lifesaving measures, transporting Izzy to the Burke Medical Center in Waynesboro, then Children's Medical Center in Augusta. On June 15, Izzy was declared dead as a result of "accidental drowning."

There were about nine other children in the lesson, according to the sheriff's report, between the ages of 4 and 10. According to a media release from the sheriff's department, toward the end of the lesson, Izzy got into the deep end of the pool undetected. When TenHuisen's granddaughter noticed him there, the sheriff's report says, she alerted the instructor, who had been drying off on the deck.

Four-year-old Israel Scott died during his second swim lessons. Police said he got into the deep end of a pool, undetected.
Four-year-old Israel Scott died during his second swim lessons. Police said he got into the deep end of a pool, undetected.Courtesy Dori Scott

TenHuisen, who has 49 years experience teaching swimming, jumped in the pool to save Izzy, the sheriff's report says. She and another parent, a registered nurse who was waiting for her child's swim lesson to start, started CPR until help arrived, the official report says.

"We don't have a concrete narrative of what happened," civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing the Scott family, told TODAY Parents.

The family has not filed a lawsuit in Izzy's death but Merritt says they are in the “fact-finding phase” and will “make a determination for the family.” 

Related: Hero 10-year-old twins describe saving drowning dad with CPR they saw in movies

The family said they have not gotten an explanation from TenHuisen — only a Venmo refund for the class, which Dori Scott called "a slap in the face." A condolence card from TenHuisen came two weeks later, the Scotts said. "It wasn't an apology," Walt Scott told TODAY Parents.

TenHuisen told police that after an exercise in which students were asked to pick up rings from the bottom of the pool (which she said Izzy was "proud" to do), she realized class was going two minutes over, so she asked students to then swim a lap in a group, according to the sheriff's report. TenHuisen said she left the pool when she thought all the kids were out, the sheriff's report says, as parents were arriving to pick up their children.

According to the sheriff's report, when TenHuisen heard her granddaughter shout, "There's a kid in the pool!" she jumped in to retrieve Israel, who was limp. He had been at the bottom of the deep end, which TenHuisen told police was an estimated eight feet.

TenHuisen did not respond to TODAY Parents' request for comment via voicemail and text message.

The instructor told police that the last time she saw Izzy was when she helped him during the ring exercise and after that, he was playing around in chest-level water.

A press release sent to TODAY Parents from the Burke County Sheriff's Office stated that after an investigation that included examining the autopsy and interviewing TenHuisen and parents present during rescue efforts, no criminal charges will be filed in Izzy's death.

"While there may be some form of negligence, it was determined that the case lacks sufficient evidence to prove criminal negligence," stated the release. "As a result, we are unable to move forward with this case. Our findings have been forwarded to the District Attorney for further review."

Izzy's family held a "celebration of life" ceremony on June 22. The family invited adults to wear blue, Izzy's favorite color, and for children to dress as superheroes. His funeral was June 25.

Dori Scott said Izzy's little brother is having trouble processing his death.

"We told him that Izzy is in heaven but he doesn't understand," she told TODAY Parents. "He is still playing their (favorite) game and talking to Izzy." The family is in grief therapy, she said.

Dori Scott said she puts on a brave face but inside, she feels misunderstood and devastated. "I miss him," she said. "It's hard knowing I will never see Izzy again."

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Nathan Congleton / TODAY