What was meant to be a celebration of a Michigan cheerleading squad’s accomplishments at an out-of-town competition came to a tragic end when a 9-year-old teammate drowned at their Illinois hotel’s swimming pool, the little girl’s devastated mother told InsideEdition.com.
For as long as Latise Douglas can remember, her daughter Adriana had wanted to be a “Dancing Doll.”
“She loved the show ‘Bring It!,” Douglas told InsideEdition.com, referring to the Lifetime reality show following The Dancing Dolls, a dance troupe out of Jackson, Mississippi, that participates in hip-hop majorette competitions.
“That was the one thing she wanted to do, she wanted to be like the Dancing Dolls,” Douglas said.
After some resistance, Douglas finally agreed to let her 9-year-old go out for the cheerleading squad with Detroit’s Westside Cubs.
“She went to every practice and tried to learn every routine, and then they went to the Chicago championship,” Douglas said.
With her father and 11-year-old brother there for support, Adriana participated in one routine Saturday, and was ecstatic when she nailed it.
“She was so happy and so proud that she got to be her own version of the Dancing Dolls,” Douglas said. “My husband said she was really happy and bubbly and dancing around.”
After the competition, Adriana and some friends went to the swimming pool at the DoubleTree Hotel in Alsip, where the team and their families were staying, Douglas said.
“They said she was jumping up and down … just having a good time. Then … she got really close to the filter,” she said. “She's so small that it sucked her to it. She stuck to it.”
The suction was apparently so strong that one of the children’s fathers who jumped in to save Adriana had a difficult time pulling her away, Douglas said.
“It took the father who jumped in to save her, it took him two times to try to pull her from it … they tried to revive her, but she was gone,” she said.
Police were called to the hotel just before 6 p.m. Saturday for an unresponsive person in the swimming pool, authorities told Fox 29.
Paramedics performed CPR and the little girl was rushed to a local hospital, but she could not be saved.
“It’s really hard. It’s a hard pill to swallow,” Douglas said. “Adriana was the light of our family. It’s really difficult to realize that she’s gone.”
An emotional little girl with a penchant for all things girly, Adriana often expressed to those she loved how much they meant to her, a trait that those mourning the child have come to cherish.
“She stood in front of me right before she left she said, ‘mommy, I love you.’ I said ‘give me a hug’ — and when I hug my kids… I pull them on top of me and kiss them and hug them real tight,’” Douglas said, both laughing and crying. “That day I couldn’t let her go… she said, ‘mommy, I love you mommy.’ I said, ‘you know I love you too.’”
Stories like that continue to flood in as those close to the Douglas family offer their condolences, her mother said.
“The whole thing that keeps me together was that she was so loved by everybody she ever met,” she said. “Everybody was drawn to her.”
Police said they are continuing to investigate, but there was no evidence that the hotel pool malfunctioned, Fox 29 reported.
A 10-year-old boy drowned at the same swimming pool three years ago, but the death was later ruled an accident, police told the television station.
A hotel employee told InsideEdition.com that all inquiries about the incident should be referred to the Alsip Police Department, which InsideEdition.com has reached out to for comment.
While Douglas waits for more answers, she said she’ll try stay strong for her devastated son, Adriana’s 11-year-old brother Jamari, and try to remember the good memories about her precious little girl.
“Her favorite color was purple,” Douglas remembered. “She had a dog, a Maltese named Ali. She sang in the choir. Her hair reached the middle of her back.
“She was the granddaughter of Reverend Jesse L. Douglas, Sr., who marched from Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They were really close, she loved her poppa. She loved getting pedicures and manicures. She was a total glamour girl – she talked about homecoming, saying, ‘mommy when I go to homecoming, I’m gonna wear heels,” Douglas said with a laugh. “So that’s how I’m burying my baby, like she’s going to her homecoming dance. That’s how I’m sending her away.”
The family has started planning for Adriana’s funeral and plan to hold a candlelight service for her at the Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield Friday, friends wrote on Facebook.
Her uncle has also created a GoFundMe page to offset costs. As of Wednesday, the page had reached $10,775 of its $12,500 goal.
The donations touched Douglas, who said above all else, she wants parents to take her story to heart, as a reminder to appreciate those closest to her.
“I’m just really, really hurt,” she said. “It happens in a blink of an eye and you just never know. There’s no way I didn’t think my baby was going to come home. I have to live the rest of my life without my daughter… to know I only got a short brief moment, nine years, it’s so unfair. The one thing I wanted most got taken away too soon. Just love on your baby good.
“I just feel good that the last times I had with my daughter she told me she loved me and we loved each other good,” she continued. “That’s the solace I get out of it, is that she was an amazing kid and everybody loved her. God can only imagine what kind of woman she would have become.”