AKRON, Ohio — The heartbroken parents of 14-year-old Toshaye Pope are breaking their silence and demanding answers nearly two weeks after their son drowned during an outing with the Ellet High School football team at Melanie Lake in Springfield Township.
Timothy and Victoria Washington said Toshaye did not have permission to go on the lake trip and believe people need to be held accountable for the teen's tragic death.
"I think it starts from the school because you shouldn't be able to take somebody's child without permission," Timothy Washington said. "I just think that somebody didn't do their job correctly to make sure that that the parents were informed."
"No permission, no waiver, nothing. Nothing from the coach," Victoria Washington added.
During an interview with News 5, the couple said they now feel lost without Toshaye, who they remembered as loving and dependable. He also leaves behind six siblings.
"His laugh brightened up like the whole day," Victoria Washington said. "It's hard. The family is not the same. The house, the atmosphere is not the same."
Toshaye was also an accomplished athlete in boxing, wrestling and track.
He was a rising freshman at Akron Early College High School, which doesn't have sports. He was eligible to play for Ellet's football team. He had been practicing with the team for several months, his parents said.
"Football is my heart. That's my love, so my son was to play high school football? That's like every dad's dream," his father said.
However, the lives of the Akron family turned into a real-life nightmare when Springfield Township rescue crews called to report Toshaye had drowned in Melanie Lake.
Jeremy Caudill, a managing partner at the lake, said the employees who provided aid to the teen were certified lifeguards. Two of them performed CPR until paramedics arrived and the lifeguards got a pulse, Caudill said.
However, Toshaye died at Akron Children's Hospital.
His parents couldn't understand why Toshaye was in a lake, because he couldn't swim.
"When I got the call from Springfield Township police, I'm like what was my son doing in Springfield Township? He's never been to a lake or an ocean without me and mom, so there's no way he would have been there because he can't swim," Timothy Washington said.
The couple said they were aware that Toshaye was invited to attend a football camp that morning at Ellet High School. His mother said Toshaye only made the tail end of the camp because he had to work.
The parents said they were completely unaware of plans— which they believe were organized by a coach— to go to Melanie Lake.
"I just want answers because I'm not sure what happened," Timothy Washington said.
Allen Tittle, an attorney representing the family, said he's still gathering evidence, interviews and looking to talk with anyone who was at the lake that day. He said he'll file a lawsuit if he believes people need to be held accountable.
"This wasn't an accident. The root cause of this thing goes back to individual choices, and at some point, someone made a choice to take the team to Melanie Lake without parents' permission," Tittle said.
After the incident, the Akron Public School District released a statement indicating it has "begun an inquiry into just what happened." District officials declined to comment further after the family spoke to News 5.
The parents said as they move forward without Toshaye, they'll continue to seek answers.
"I'm trying to find answers because there's no clarification to what happened," Timothy Washington said.