ST. LOUIS – Investigators called the drownings of five children on a church picnic an accident and said Tuesday they don't expect criminal charges, but the family of one victim retained attorneys and questioned whether there was proper supervision.
Witnesses said the children — ages 10 to 17 — were swept away in the Meramec River during an outing Sunday at Castlewood State Park southwest of St. Louis.
Attorney William Holland was retained by the family of 16-year-old Deandre Sherman. "They want to know what happened to their child and why," Holland said.
He said the church's "heart was in the right place but they obviously failed to adequately supervise the children."
Police spokeswoman Tracy Panus said the investigation hasn't turned up anything criminal. The children had adult supervision and state law doesn't require certain adult chaperone-to-child ratios, she said.
St. Louis Dream Center, run by TV evangelist Joyce Meyer and her husband, Dave Meyer, devoted much of a regular weekly service Tuesday evening to prayers for the victims' families. The sanctuary was so packed that security had to turn people away at the door.
Edris Moore, mother of the other four victims, thanked those who tried to save her children and those who have supported her.
"Don't cry," said Moore, who has four surviving children. "Let it go. My kids are in heaven now."
Outside the church, a makeshift memorial of stuffed bears, balloons and handwritten notes lined a fence.
Joyce Meyer Ministries did not respond to e-mailed questions from The Associated Press concerning the number of chaperones who made the trip and other details.
Four siblings drowned along with Sherman after apparently going into the river to help a church friend who was caught in an undertow, authorities said. The sixth youth was rescued and survived.
The Missouri Water Patrol recorded 24 drownings on the Meramec River from 1996 to 2005.