Child Falls Into Cement Pit in Downtown Miami Park | Miami New Times


Cementgate 2023: Eight-Year-Old Plunges into Concrete Pit at Downtown Miami Park

Somewhere, deep inside a concrete foundation at Maurice A. Ferré Park, a boy's sandal lies entombed.
The child emerged covered in cement after falling into the downtown Miami pit.
The child emerged covered in cement after falling into the downtown Miami pit. Photo by Beto
Share this:
On August 15, Beto's children were leaving Maurice A. Ferré Park with their babysitter when his 8-year-old son suddenly ran off. As the group crossed Biscayne Boulevard, the boy disappeared inside the sprawling downtown Miami park, nowhere to be found until his cries for help erupted from a construction site on a small rise in the ground.  

The sitter discovered that the child had tumbled into a gaping hole of freshly poured cement — one that lacked any barriers or signage, Beto claims.

"He was covered until his chest," the dad wrote in an email to the president of the Downtown Neighbors Alliance, an association that represents more than a dozen downtown condos. "If it had been my 3-year-old, it would have been fatal."

The alliance followed up with a letter to the Bayfront Park Management Trust, the city agency chaired by City of Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo that manages both Bayfront Park and Maurice A. Ferré Park.

The letter relayed the complaints of downtown residents who claim they've recently witnessed unsafe, "sloppy," and unpermitted construction at the park, resulting in potentially dangerous incidents like the one that befell Beto's son. Residents had described seeing equipment and supplies left unsecured on the park grounds and construction underway without proper safeguards.

"I see your cards and raise you — his sandal is inside the cement-filled hole."

tweet this
Beto says his son was unharmed, though the concrete pit swallowed one of the boy's sandals. He says the babysitter regaled him of the tale of his son's getaway and cement plunge.

The father says metal barricades were later erected to cordon off the construction area and the city issued an apology of sorts, but he wants to know: Where were the safeguards when his son fell?

"There's no signage about what is going on there," says Beto, who asked that his surname not be published out of privacy concerns and fear of retaliation.

What offended Beto as much as the initial incident was the Bayfront Park Management Trust's attempt to deny that the incident occurred at Maurice A. Ferré Park.

Lest there be any doubt, Beto implored the trust to go digging up the concrete to find his son's missing shoe.

On August 23, after the Downtown Neighbors Alliance forwarded the trust several photos — including one of a large cement foundation and another of the boy slathered in wet cement — the trust's interim director, Miguel Ferro, attempted to refute Beto's story.

Ferro told the father that while he was "so sorry that the kid went through that," it was more likely the child fell into a hole at another nearby construction site. He maintained that the park's cement foundation pit had barriers around it since "day 0."

"Knowing that there are so many constructions on the area, it could have been somewhere else," Ferro wrote.

Beto was appalled.

"I was looking for an apology, and you blame my kid?" the father wrote in an email to Ferro. "How embarrassing for you to write this nonsense in front of your superiors."

"I see your cards and raise you — his sandal is inside the cement-filled hole if we need to assert what hole he [fell] in."

On August 25, the city attorney's office interceded with its own emailed apology.

"I must apologize on behalf of the Trust. While I have not verified the claims, I do apologize for the response," Assistant City Attorney Jihan Soliman wrote. "We take these claims very seriously and I will be speaking to Mr. Ferro to secure the Park of...known unimproved areas or dangerous conditions, if any."
The father says the cement pit in downtown Miami was surrounded by metal barricades after his child fell in.
Photo by Beto
Ferro did not immediately respond to New Times' request for comment via email. The Bayfront Park Management Trust has yet to respond to a question via email about which contractor was employed at the park that day to pour the cement.

Carollo tells New Times that the area where the boy fell is an "active construction site," and he questions why a child was allowed to run up a hill into an area where construction was in progress.

"With all due respect, [the parents] need to take some responsibility here too," Carollo contends. "I wouldn’t let my grandson run up a hill like that."

Adds the commissioner: "Frankly, why would anyone be going up a hill in an area — where you can see barricades or no barricades — that’s under construction?"

Beto says he's reassured to know that the city has put up barricades to prevent accidents. Despite the city's apology, he feels Ferro's response was "unforgivable."

"All of us make mistakes — I mean, that's what I teach my kids," he says. "If you make a mistake, you own up to it. You pay the consequences of it, and you move forward...rather than deflect blame or re-victimize the victim."
KEEP NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls. Make a one-time donation today for as little as $1.