CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - A Charlotte County father, who lost his twin boys in an accidental drowning, says he's trying turn their senseless death into a meaningful mission.
Paul DeMello says too many children are dying in pools in Southwest Florida and he wants to create greater awareness through his story of loss.
WINK News spoke with DeMello for his first on-camera interview since the 2010 tragedy.
To outsiders, Christian and Joshua looked identical, but to their father, his twin boys were easy to tell apart.
"Christian was laid back, peaceful. Josh was the one that had to do everything first," he said.
Three years ago, the 13-month-olds broke through their baby gate, crawled into their grandparents' lanai and made their way to the pool.
The boys' mother found them floating face down.
"I got a phone call from the mom, she was hysterical screaming. I just fell to my knees," DeMello said.
The twins, who had never been apart, were split up and sent to different area hospitals. "Joshua passed right away. The only thing I could think about was getting to him.,I never felt so powerless in my whole life," he said.
Christian lived three days longer than his brother which gave friends and family a chance to say their goodbyes.
The drownings were ruled accidental, but DeMello believes a pool barrier could have saved his sons. Now, he preserves their memory through a non-profit dedicated to pool safety and drowning prevention.
"Being around pools all the time in Florida and seeing different situations, I just felt something needed to be done," he said.
And hopes the "Just Against Children Drowning" foundation will save other families in Southwest Florida from losing loved ones.
"I want nothing but peace and goodness to come out of this ugliness."
The non-profit is hosting a charity motorcycle ride on May 18th at 11:00 a.m. The ride starts at the Port Charlotte Walmart, at Exit 170.