Wrongful death lawsuit filed after Somerset toddler drowns in babysitter's pool

The parents of 2-year-old Alani Sophia Holmes who drowned in the swimming pool at a babysitter's home in Franklin almost two years ago have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the babysitter and her family.

The lawsuit filed in mid-January alleges the caregivers were negligent, careless and reckless by failing to supervise the child who was able to gain access to the backyard deck and the pool.

The lawsuit also alleges the babysitters failed to contact police in a timely manner. Both the lawsuit and police reports indicate more than 30 minutes passed between the time the toddler was noticed to be missing and when police were contacted.

The lawsuit also alleges the house's back door was open and the caregivers left the child unsupervised, failed to maintain the pool which allowed the water to become non-transparent, and did not to maintain the property in a safe manner.

Named in the lawsuit are Zaira Alcantara, Rudiard R. Foy Alcantara and Sandy Alcantara.

Court records show the lawsuit was personally served to the defendants on Feb. 3. As of Feb. 23, they have not yet filed a response to the lawsuit. Telephone messages left for the Alcantaras asking for comment have not been returned.

No criminal charges have been filed in connection with the child's death.

In 2022 state records indicated the babysitter's address was not registered as a licensed day care facility.

The lawsuit states the babysitter's conduct was "outrageous, willful and wanton, and exhibited a reckless indifference to the life and safety of .... Alani Sophia Holmes."

The child's parents, Jeffrey Holmes and Nilda Sanchez, who are co-administrators of their daughter's estate, are seeking damages for mental and physical pain and suffering, loss of the enjoyment of life and their daughter's medical expenses.

Alani Sophia Holmes, died on May 13, 2022.

In a 2022 interview the toddler's grandfather, Mark Frisby, a former Gannett newspaper publisher, said Alani was "a sweetheart" and her death has left the family heartbroken.

According to the lawsuit on May 12, 2022, Sanchez dropped her daughter off at the home of her babysitter Zaira Alcantara in the Somerset section of Franklin.

The babysitter's home had a deck off the back and there was a door at the back of the house that led to the deck with an above-ground pool located beyond and below the deck. The house also had video cameras on the back deck that captured the incident, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says on the day Alani drowned the babysitter's family was working in the backyard near the pool and deck and repeatedly went in and out of the house through the back door.

Around 5 p.m., Alani, who was allegedly unsupervised, went out the back door of the house which had been left open, went onto the deck and climbed onto a planter in the back corner of the deck, the lawsuit says.

"From the top of the planter, Alani went over the railing and fell into the pool," the lawsuit says. "Camera footage horrifically shows Alani flailing her arms and splashing in a desperate attempt to stay above the water."

The lawsuit alleges the babysitters had no idea she had fallen into the pool and was drowning.

Without anyone to rescue her, the child was unable to stay afloat and sunk to the bottom of the pool, according to the lawsuit.

A few minutes later they noticed the toddler was missing and started searching for her but didn't contact police. After searching for the child on the property and in the neighborhood, a pool net was used to search the bottom of the pool but because the water was murky, nothing was found, the lawsuit charges.

And still no one contacted police, the lawsuit says.

"Approximately 30 minutes later, defendants entered the pool and found Alani’s body at the bottom. Defendants removed Alani’s motionless body from the pool, began attempting to administer CPR, and finally called 9-1-1," the lawsuit says.

Franklin police reports indicate that around 5:41 p.m. May 12, 2022, police received a call about a drowning. The audio of the 911 call has a crying woman reporting a 2-year-old girl drowning.

The police report says the babysitter said she had left the child unattended only for a few minutes before finding her in the swimming pool.

The toddler was rushed to the hospital where she was pronounced dead on May 13, 2022, the lawsuit says. Her death came about a month before her third birthday.

According to the lawsuit, the toddler "suffered, endured and experienced extreme pain and suffering, mental terror and anguish, and ultimately suffered a painful, terrifying and untimely death."

Email: srussell@gannettnj.com

Suzanne Russell is a breaking news reporter for MyCentralJersey.com covering crime, courts and other mayhem. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today

This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: Wrongful death suit filed after NJ toddler drowns in babysitter's pool