An unlicensed day care center in West Knoxville, Tennessee is now the focus of an investigation after two toddlers drowned at the facility.
The unresponsive bodies of Elijah and Elyssa Orejuela were found at around 10 a.m. on July 22 at a day care called Om Baby. Both were discovered to have drowned in the deep end of a pool, the Knox County Sheriff's Office said, according to WFMY, a Greensboro, North Carolina-based news organization.
The children were rushed to the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, where Elyssa was pronounced dead. Elijah was put on life support but passed away two days later, WFMY reported.
The twins would have been 2 years old in August.
After receiving three complaints against Om Baby in January, March, and May, The Tennessee Department of Human Services had served the center with an injunction in May, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. The DHS complaint noted that the owner of the facility, Jennifer Salley, was unlicensed to operate a child care center (despite advertising those credentials on her since-deleted website), meaning that she was not legally authorized to care for more than four unrelated children at a time for periods longer than three hours. DHS officials recieved reports that Salley had been caring for more than the maximum four unrelated kids at several points in the months leading up to the Orejuela's accident, according to the Sentinel. Salley was also served with a restraining order on May 17, which forbade her from operating the facility.
DHS spokesman Sky Arnold said he had no reason to believe Salley was out of compliance with the injunction at the time the children were found.
The grieving mother, Amelia Wieand, described the children as soul mates.
“After much heartbreak, Elijah has gone to be with his sister Elyssa. They were formed together in my womb and came into the world together,” Wieand told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “Both kids were extremely strong. She was his other half ... Even in death they were together.”
“I’ll never understand this, and I’m not sure how to live with this pain,” Weiand continued, explaining that Elijah's organs had been donated. “But to prevent another family from suffering this immeasurable pain, today Elijah became a superhero.”
A GoFundMe campaign has been created to help pay for the family's funeral costs and medical bills. So far, more than $30,000 has been raised. Oxygen.com hasn't independently verified the authenticity of the campaign.
An investigation into the deaths is ongoing.
Salley has not offered a comment on the situation.