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latest update: Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 11:22 PM EDT

Young boy who drowned in pool fondly remembered

Staff Writer

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photo: news
click photo to enlarge
  Marquis Fuller, center, poses with his cousin Richard Wright and brother Oakland Fuller on the grounds of the Willie Galimore Community Center and Aquatic Complex an hour before Marquis drowned in the centerÝs pool.

He was a jokester who loved everyone. He was always smiling and making new friends. He loved to sing and play games. He loved just being a child, just being 8 years old.

Marquis Fuller, the young boy that drowned in a pool Saturday, loved life, his step-father, Reginald Brooks, said Tuesday.

"I'd get on him about something and he'd say 'Yes sir' in a joking manner," Brooks said, smiling with the memory. "And I couldn't even be mad at him anymore."

Brooks described Marquis as loving. He said the young boy would talk and talk, ask questions and always keep him laughing.

"If you was down, he'd come give you a hug ... tell you he loved you," Brooks said.

"For a conversation piece, he was just awesome," he added later.

Besides playing games, Marquis enjoyed school. His mom, Katonya Boatwright, said even if he missed the bus, he would come ask for a ride. He wanted to go to school.

Marquis just finished the first grade at R.B. Hunt Elementary School. He was awarded certificates for outstanding spelling, writing and reading.

He was also the student of the week during the first week of April. Boatwright smiled proudly looking at his awards, particularly the results of the Stanford Achievement Test -- Marquis ranked among the highest in his grade for reading.

Marquis was born in Palm Beach, but moved to St. Augustine when his mom decided to come back to the city. He was 5 years old at the time.

Within the last few weeks, Marquis and his family moved to Brevard County. At the time of the accident, they were attending a family function for the weekend. The family was getting ready to eat at 108 Cerro St., across the street from the Willie Galimore Community Center and Aquatic Complex, when the drowning occurred.

While Boatwright and Brooks helped set-up for the party, Marquis and his 10-year-old brother, Oakland Fuller, ran to the house to get money for the pool. The heat was bearing down and the boys were ready to play.

"The only reason, the only reason I let my kids go is because my 10-year-old said there were lifeguards at the pool," Boatwright said.

She said she usually would not let her boys near water alone, but she knew the lifeguards were trained to handle situations that may arise around the pool.

Boatwright also said Marquis knew better than to go in above his head, because he has never had swimming lessons. She said she, herself, can not swim.

Boatwright said the boys had talked about taking swimming lessons at the Galimore Center, but then they moved to Brevard County.

She said Marquis was in a pool last weekend in Palm Bay and he never went further than 3-foot deep water.

The boys played in the Willie Galimore pool many times before on hot summer days, she said.

According to Dave Williams, the county's aquatics superintendent, about 10 boys were playing a game in the pool. A child tagged Marquis, who was submerged in the pool, he said. Marquis did not respond and the child began pulling at him when the lifeguards stepped in to pull Marquis from the pool, Williams added.

Williams said the lifeguards could not get Marquis's airway open. They began the Heimlich Maneuver and CPR, he said.

The fire rescue units arrived on scene three minutes after 911 was called, Williams said.

Boatwright is CPR-trained as a medical assistant. She said she doesn't think the lifeguards have the right training, equipment or response time.

"It could have been prevented," Boatwright said.

She ran to the pool moments after Marquis was found not breathing in the pool.

"It being my son, you can't expect me to react the same way," Boatwright said, not thinking of her training in the stressful situation.

Oakland was with his brother at the pool. Boatwright and Brooks said they are trying to keep Oakland busy, "because he saw it, and hearing it is one thing, but actually seeing it is another story."

Oakland said he loved wrestling and playing games with his brother. The two were inseparable.

Boatwright stared off into the distance when she talked about Marquis smiling face and big, bright eyes. "Everything excited Marquis," she said.

Brooks smiled when he thought of the songs Marquis would sing. The young boy loved all types of music. "He'd chop up some of the words, but he'd almost get it right."

Boatwright is trying to cope with the situation by hoping someone else will learn from what happened.

She advised parents to always go the pool with their children even if lifeguards are working.

"It's their intention to watch your children, and that didn't happen," Boatwright said.

Brooks is trying to look at the situation from a positive light. He said there was something special about Marquis and he is "looking at it like angels bring messages."

Brooks hopes families everywhere will come together and realize their importance to each other.

"We're still here and we can tighten up ourselves 'cause time is too short,' " Brooks said.

Marquis' grandmother, Lillie Mae Brown, St. Augustine, responded quickly to the scene. She loved her grandson and wanted to help him.

"Every moment with him was special, even when he was bad," she said. "Just to see him, you'd love him, you didn't even have to know him."

The family has opened an account at Bank of America for a burial fund.

Anyone who wants to contribute can contact the bank and make deposits to the account number, 003449609632.

Williams said children under the age of 13 should be accompanied by an adult. The pool was closed Saturday afternoon and Williams said he expects it to reopen today.

The lifeguards have been debriefed and had a chance to talk about the emotional side of the accident, Williams said.

"The entire community is grieving, and the entire staff is grieving," Williams said.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family," he added.

The St. Augustine Police Department is continuing its investigation.

According to Dr. Terrence Steiner, medical examiner, the preliminary investigation and autopsy findings on Marquis Fuller reveal that the cause of death was by asphyxiation due to freshwater drowning.

Steiner's office said Tuesday the final report will be available in four to six weeks.

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