BOYTON BEACH, FL (WPTV/CNN) - The family of a Florida girl who died months after drinking boiling water is disputing reports that the state investigated cases of possible neglect involving the little girl.
An image of 8-year-old Ki'ari Pope shows she was a happy child. Her cousin Latoya Johnson saved a moment of her smiling on her phone. "She was just a happy kid. This is when it first happened, when she was still in the hospital. She just made joy of whatever situation she was in,” Johnson said.
Latoya Johnson says Ki'ari accepted a dare from another cousin in March. The dare was to drink boiling water like the people were on a social media video they said they were watching. "She felt like, she's so fearless and can do everything, …and she took a big gulp,” Johnson said.
Records from state social workers say the boiling water burned her throat and mouth. She was hospitalized, and Latoya Johnson says Ki'ari lost her ability to talk, but kept her spunk. "She can still be like, let you know how she feels and what was going on. She still smiled through whatever she went through,” Johnson said.
Latoya Johnson says the dare happened at Ki'ari's mom's house in Rivera Beach. Records show, in addition to the March 31 incident, social workers responded to nine other incidents since the girl was born, including four this year alone. Two of those came when a relative was watching her.
Diane Johnson is another cousin. She defends the child's 21-year-old mom. "None of those cases, were like evidence where we see neglect or we see something that's not right,” Diane Johnson said.
The cousins say as recent as this past Sunday, Ki'ari was slowly getting her voice back and seemed to be otherwise healthy. "One of her cousin's birthday party, then she went home and went to sleep, and they said she woke up and couldn't breathe,” Latoya Johnson said.
The medical examiner has not said whether the child's injuries from the boiling water contributed to her death. The case remains under investigation.
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