CAMDEN, N.J. – Three boys whose bodies were found in the trunk of a car following a massive, two-day search died from suffocation and not foul play, authorities said Saturday.
"The cause of all three deaths is suffocation and the manner of all three deaths is accidental," said county Prosecutor Vincent Sarubbi.
Police Chief Edwin Figueroa (search) said the car was searched when police first responded to the report of the missing children Wednesday at about 8:30 p.m., about three hours after parents started looking for the youths.
But Sarubbi said it can be inferred from the grisly discovery Friday night that the trunk of the battered car had not been checked. He said police and prosecutors will issue a report on the handling of the search within 30 days.
The bodies were discovered by one of the boy's fathers, who opened its trunk after searchers had spent hours scouring their neighborhood and the nearby Delaware River on foot, in helicopters and by boat.
But the search ended right where it began when David Agosto lifted the trunk of a banged-up maroon Toyota Camry (search) sitting in tall grass in the yard where the boys were last seen.
There, he found the bodies of his 6-year-old son Daniel Agosto, 5-year-old Jesstin Pagan and 11-year-old Anibal Cruz.
He broke down in tears, throwing himself against a car, and was later taken away on a stretcher by paramedics, crying and flailing his arms and legs.
Sarubbi said an uncle of one of the boys wanted to look in the trunk because he was searching for a set of jumper cables. Agosto accompanied him because "the thought may have crossed his mind that the boys may have been in that trunk," the prosecutor said.
He said one of the boys — but would not say which one — had in the past played in the car, but not necessarily in its trunk.
The car belonged to Carmen Lopez, the maternal grandmother of Anibal Cruz. The car was not working properly and had been parked in the shady, weedy area for about three weeks, Sarubbi said.
The prosecutor said the hydraulic plunger (search) that keeps the trunk from closing was not working, so the lid was able to swing close and lock as soon as the boys stopped propping it up.
He said some periods of hard rain on Wednesday evening may have muffled any noises from the well-insulated trunk, which was parked far enough from the house to make it difficult to hear any voices coming from it.
He also said there was a bag of concrete in the trunk, but it was not yet clear from the autopsies whether that would have been a factor. A full report from the medical examiner is expected, but no timeline for that was made public. That report is also expected to reveal the time the boys died, which authorities said they did not yet know.
For two tortured days, searchers had turned the city upside down, combing alleyways and woods, abandoned houses and vacant lots.
Figueroa said if any law enforcement officials broke department rules in the search they would be disciplined, but otherwise he might simply order more training for officers.
"I feel very bad, just like the community and law enforcement agencies that three children were found in the trunk of the vehicle," Figueroa said.
City Council President Angel Fuentes told FOX News that he has set up a fund to help the families pay for burial costs.
Those wishing to contribute can send donations to:
Angel's Children's Fun for Pagan, Agosto & Cruz
c/o Bank of America/Pathmark
2881 Mt. Ephraim Ave.
Camden, N.J., 08104