Police recover body of former Jr. Pan Am Games athlete from Lake Ontario, family says

The family of a 24-year-old Ottawa man who represented Canada at the 2015 Junior Pan American Games said police have recovered his body from Lake Ontario.

Steve Nkusi, 24, former track athlete, hadn't been seen since going swimming at Sunset Beach on Saturday

The family of 24-year-old Steve Nkusi say he was an athlete who aspired to do charity work in Rwanda. He went missing after a swim at a St. Catharines, Ont., beach on Saturday. (Submitted by Sandrine Mugeni)

The family of a 24-year-old Ottawa man who represented Canada at the 2015 Junior Pan American Games said police have recovered his body from Lake Ontario.

Steve Nkusi's sister, Sandrine Mugeni, told CBC Hamilton in a phone interview Wednesday morning that his body was found Tuesday.

Mugeni said the family had been hoping police would find him soon.

"We're grateful for that," Mugeni said, crying.

Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) says it found a body in Lake Ontario, but hasn't confirmed his identity.

RCMP boats searched Sunset Beach on Monday for a missing man. Nkuzi's family had been waiting for answers since he went missing Saturday. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

NRPS said the body was discovered about four kilometres east of the Welland Canal and some 500 metres offshore, after responding to a 911 call from a boater who saw it at about 1:15 p.m. ET Tuesday.

"The identity of the body recovered by our marine could not be positively identified by our detectives and the coroner," said Const. Philip Gavin in an email Wednesday.

"The coroner who attended ordered the body be sent to the Centre of Forensic Sciences (CFS) in Toronto for a post-mortem and positive identification. We are awaiting the official results from the CFS."

A media release from police says the investigation is ongoing.

Nkusi's family said he went missing Saturday at Sunset Beach in St. Catharines, Ont., while swimming during a friend's birthday party.

By Monday, family members from across Canada were at the beach, looking on and consoling each other as police boats scanned the waters.

Niagara police said emergency crews responded to initial reports on Saturday, including uniformed police, the NRPS Marine Unit, St. Catharines Fire, Trenton Search and Rescue, as well as the Canadian Coast Guard.

Search efforts also included sonar, underwater cameras and divers, as well as shoreline and open water searches.

Nkusi represented Canada in high jump at the 2015 Junior Pan American Games. (Submitted by Sandrine Mugeni)

Nkusi was born in Kigali, Rwanda, and grew up in the Orléans area of Ottawa, his family said. He was a University of Ottawa alumnus with a finance degree who worked for the federal government while in school.

He represented Canada in high jump at the 2015 Junior Pan American Games and also recently started modelling.

His family said Nkusi had plans to go to Rwanda to support his parents' hotel and do charity work, like help build homes. 

His cousin, Win Kayitare, said previously that "to know Steve was to love him."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

A banner of upturned fists, with the words 'Being Black in Canada'.