New York Daily News: EXCLUSIVE – The father of one of the children drowned to death in Coney Island earlier this week says he never saw the tragedy coming, having believed his daughter was in good hands in spite of his rocky past relationship with her mother.

“At one time, she was a great mother who loved her kids,” Shamir Small said of his ex-girlfriend Erin Merdy, who was charged with murder on Wednesday. “I didn’t see this coming. This is a complete shock.”

His daughter Liliana, 4, was found unresponsive on the Coney Island beach early Monday alongside siblings Zachary, 7, and Oliver, who was just 3 months old. Merdy was aimlessly walking barefoot nearby, according to police.

Liliana Stephen

“Brokenhearted is one way to put it, but it’s far more than that,” Small, who did not father the other children, told the Daily News on Wednesday night.

The city Administration for Children’s Services was looking into Merdy as recently as mid-July, but the case “fell through the cracks,” a source told The News.

Liliana was Small’s youngest child. Merdy gave her maiden name of Stephen to Liliana, according to Small.

“She was the baby. She was the youngest of my four,” he lamented.

Liliana spent weekends with Small, but he hadn’t seen Merdy in years since the girl’s grandmother was the one who dropped her off at his home.

“I just don’t know what happened. Me and her didn’t have the best relationship,” Small said of Merdy. “When it was great, it was great. But when it was bad, it was bad.”

Small most recently spent time with his daughter over Labor Day Weekend.

“She was definitely a daddy’s girl,” he said of Liliana. “She would wait for me to come home from work. The last thing we did together was watch JoJo Siwa. She loved her music videos.”

As the MTA bus operator fought back tears, he recalled Liliana as a “bossy, fun” child.

“She loved to laugh and she loved to dance,” he said.

Small knew little about the other young victims, but recalled Oliver was his father’s first child.

“She loved her father,” he said of Liliana. “I’m 100 percent sure Oliver was loved by his father.”

Liliana Stephen with her father Shamir Small
(L-R) Erin Merdy, Liliana Stephen and Shamir Small
Liliana Stephen with her father Shamir Small – Obtained by Daily News

The father of the 4-year-old girl drowned to death in Coney Island believed his daughter was in good hands. (New York Daily News Handout)

Liliana Stephen

Top Feature Photo: Liliana Stephen with her father Shamir Small