Quebec City elementary school mourning classmate who drowned during outing

Students at the Filteau elementary school in Quebec City threw paper planes out of their class windows on Friday morning, in tribute to their classmate who drowned during a school outing on Thursday.

Two separate drownings in Quebec on Thursday bring total to 24 deaths this year

Students at École d’éducation internationale Filteau in Quebec City threw paper planes from their class windows on Friday morning, in tribute to their 10-year-old school mate who drowned on Thursday, during a school outing. (Marie-Pier Mercier/Radio-Canada)

Staff at an elementary school in Quebec City, École d'éducation internationale Filteau, are trying to help their students cope with the death of one of their classmates.

The 10-year old boy drowned during a class outing at the Base de Plein Air de Sainte-Foy, on Thursday. The municipally run outdoor activity centre is a popular destination for families on hot summer days.

The child was seen struggling in the middle of the Laberge lake around 12:30 and police were called.

Lifeguards lost sight of the boy before they were able to reach him. He was later found unconscious by citizens who were helping in the search, and taken to hospital.

Fourth-grader Tristan Charron said he was in the water with the boy when they got to a section that got very deep, all of a sudden.

"He didn't know it was deep and he wasn't a good swimmer. When he went past the rope he started panicking so much he let go of my hand," Charron told Radio-Canada. He said his friend hadn't wanted to wear a life jacket.

Charron wasn't able to scream and went to shore to find a teacher. "I was panicked — I was hoping they would find him in time."

Students flew paper airplanes from their class windows on Friday morning, tributes to the young boy etched on the wings. Tristan Charron said he wrote everything he liked about his friend on his plane.

Nine-year-old Tristan Charron, pictured here with his mother Audrey Roy, said he wasn't able to hold onto his friend's hand once they got close to a deep section of the lake, and his friend started panicking. (Pascal Poinlane/Radio-Canada)

"He was kind, he was one of the fastest in the class — his favourite game was playing tag and (online game platform) Roblox. That's pretty much the most important things." 

Psychologists and specialized educators were on site on Friday to help support students and staff and go around the classes to talk about what happened. 

Adja Sofiétou Mbaye took part in the class outing and said everything happened fast.

"They asked us to get out of the water — we didn't even have time to put on our shoes and we had to leave," said Mbaye.

Adja Sofiétou Mbaye was a classmate of the 10-year-old boy who died. (Radio-Canada)

"Everyone was crying. I felt sad and nervous, I didn't understand what was happening."

"Everyone is in shock," said Anne-Lise Porson. Her three daughters always enjoyed the school outings at the outdoor activity centre, she said. 

"It's hurting everyone — it's an accident. It takes just a fraction of a second."

David Ortiz said the incident is discouraging for parents.

"We think it will be a safe place, but it's beyond anyone's control. Kids should be wearing life jackets in these situations," said Ortiz, sending his thoughts and condolences to the parents.

24 drownings this year

In a statement, the school service centre Des Découveurs offered its condolences to the family and said it was co-operating with authorities looking into the incident.

The city of Quebec, which runs the activity centre, is also refusing to comment because the police are investigating.

The Lifesaving Society says less than one per cent of drownings happen in supervised settings like these. But spokesperson François Lépine says it only takes a matter of seconds. 

Psychological support is being offered to students and staff at the school. (Marie-Pier Mercier/Radio-Canada)

"Someone who is a non-swimmer will stay at the surface between 20 to 60 seconds," he said.

Townships drowning

Provincial police in the Eastern Townships are confirming that a girl under the age of five also drowned on Thursday.

She was found in a body of water behind a home in the town of Wotton, between Sherbrooke and Victoriaville.

Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding her death. There have now been 24 drownings in Quebec in 2021.

With files from Franca Mignacca, Pascal Poinlane and Marie-Pier Mercier