A Georgia college student died by drowning at a Memorial Day pool party on Monday night, and now his family wants to know what happened.
The victim was identified as 19-year-old Shomari Billings, a sophomore at Georgia Southern University, reported WSB-TV.
In cellphone videos and pictures taken by witnesses, hundreds of people fill the pool area of an Atlanta apartment complex. An online flyer for the event listed free BBQ and an open bar as part of the pool party.
Later in the evening, police responded to a complaint about the size of the party. It was only after police arrived on the scene that Billings was seen at the bottom on the pool.
“It wasn’t that many people in the pool, it was just so much going on people didn’t notice,” one anonymous partygoer told WSB-TV.
Police and other party attendees attempted to resuscitate Billings around 7:30 p.m., but by then, he had already been underwater for up to 20 minutes.
Other students at Georgia Southern remember Billings as a kind friend.
"He had a smile on his face that would affect anybody," family friend Deondre Ezzard told WSB-TV.
Ezzard said Billings was very popular on campus because of his cooking skill. He hoped to open a restaurant one day.
"We cooked wings, fried Oreos, slushies, just everything, and people actually shopped with us. It was called 3113 Wings," Ezzard told the local news station.
On Tuesday night, Billings' family and friends honored him at a vigil, where his mother, Shelby, told reporters that she’s distraught.
"I don't know what hurts worse, me not having my child or me not knowing exactly what happened," she said.
Witnesses believe someone should have seen Billings before it was too late.
“Somebody should have been smart enough to know and see, that many people, him drowning and at least go and try to save his life,” one partygoer named Vinicko told WSB-TV.
Billings family are also looking for answers as to how the 19-year-old drowned in front of hundreds of people.
"Somebody is at fault for this and they need to come forward because this is hurting me," Ezzard told WSB-TV.
A GoFundMe has been created to help the family with funeral expenses.
After the tragic incident, the apartment complex sent a letter to residents that read:
You may have heard about a tragic event at the pool this weekend. Someone held an unauthorized event at the pool. The news media is reporting that, tragically, a young person drowned. Our hearts go out to his friends and family. We would like to take a few moments to reinforce some critical points.
First, be aware that drowning does not look like you might expect. The Red Cross says that people often slip under the water or even appear to be swimming but can be in distress. It is important for everyone to keep an eye out for others in the water especially when no lifeguard is on duty.
We are cooperating fully with law enforcement in their search for who is responsible. Also – in addition to the legal aspects, we must also reinforce that this unauthorized event broke a number of pool rules – including those which forbid alcohol use. Also, the pool is for the use of residents only. Any residents responsible for planning or promoting this event have violated the terms of their lease and will have their lease terminated.
Management, The 500 Apartments