ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – The family of a boy who drowned at summer camp last week says they still know little about how it happened.

Pictures of T.J. Mister show how much he loved life and loved his family. In one memorable photo, T.J.’s grandmother, Lyubov Strauss, hugged him just days before the boy drowned.

She had a conversation with us over Zoom from her home in Denver, Colorado, saying it was like a bad dream.

“He was incredible,” she said. “For us, it is a great loss – more than a loss.”

T.J.’s mother, Olga, was making funeral arrangements on Monday and said by email they’re desperate for answers to save another family from their tragedy.

T.J. drowned on Wednesday, July 20, at the Kennedy Recreation Complex in St. Louis County.

“We want to know how many kids around T.J’s age were in the pool at the same time—6 years old, he was the youngest—and how many lifeguards?” Strauss said.

The grandmother said the boy was not a swimmer.

“I want to know if he was wearing a life vest – and what happened?” she said.

One of the few answers they have was obtained by their attorney Nathan McMahill, who learned T.J. was found dead at the bottom of the pool between the 4’ and 5’ marks.

St. Louis County has declined to answer FOX 2’s questions and referred us to the St. Louis County police investigation. However, police had no updates to report on Monday.

A key to the investigation may be video. The county confirms surveillance cameras monitor the pool. McMahill says he’s requested the video but has not received it yet.

T.J. will be laid to rest Monday, August 1.

“He was a special soul. Nobody imagines that he is gone,” Strauss said.

The county’s rec center pool was originally scheduled to close for only this past weekend. But on Monday, the rec center announced the pool would be closed for the rest of the season.



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