Nova Scotia

Teen's death in fire raises many questions for Cape Breton family

One month ago, police were called to a shed fire at a home in Sydney Mines. The body of a teenager was discovered in the structure, but family members are unsure why he was there.

Body of Dayton Watkins-Leroy-MacLean, 17, was found inside burning shed last month

Dayton Watkins-Leroy-MacLean died from smoke inhalation in a fire in Sydney Mines. (Submitted by April MacLean)

The aunt of a teenager who died in a fire last month in Sydney Mines, N.S., says loved ones are struggling to process the young man's death because no one has been able to explain what happened.

The body of Dayton Watkins-Leroy-MacLean was found in the early morning hours of May 5 inside a burning shed on Crescent Street.

His aunt, April MacLean, said the 17-year-old's death has taken a toll on the family.

"If we knew exactly what happened, we'd be able to grieve a little better," she said. "Right now, it's very difficult to even sleep at night not knowing any answers."

Searching for answers

MacLean said little has come to light about why her nephew, who did not live on the property, was there the night of the fire.

Police were not initially forthcoming about their investigation, she said, though conversations have improved recently.

MacLean said she's heard stories that her nephew was breaking into vehicles in the area, but she doesn't believe it.

"What I know of Dayton, he would have never done anything like that," she said.

"I have no idea why he would have been in the shed. We just want the answers as to why he could not get out, how it started. We have nothing — just that he died of smoke inhalation."

'People might know something'

MacLean says her family wants answers into the teenager's death. (Submitted by April MacLean)

Residents of a home located on the property reported the fire after seeing smoke coming from the building.

Firefighters arrived on the scene around 4 a.m., and discovered the teen's body.

MacLean said her nephew had only been living in Cape Breton for a year or so, and had moved to Sydney Mines about two weeks before his death.

She said some people have said they have video footage of her nephew from that night. 

"We're just concerned that people might know something," MacLean said.

"We're just trying to piece it all together.... Even if it was an accident, we just want the answers just so we can grieve properly."

Cape Breton Regional Police have confirmed that video surveillance is a part of their investigation, but didn't elaborate.

Police spokesperson Desiree Magnus said investigators carried out an extensive canvass of the Sydney Mines neighbourhood, and followed up with family and friends on the teen's whereabouts that day.

No evidence of foul play

Magnus said there is no evidence of foul play, but police are still awaiting the results of an investigation from the provincial fire marshal's office.

MacLean said her nephew is sorely missed. He was "a very funny kid," she said, who loved joking around, fishing and riding on dirt bikes.

"It's just sad because he had his whole life ahead of him and it was taken away from him so young," she said.


Erin Pottie


Erin Pottie is a CBC reporter based in Sydney. She has been covering local news in Cape Breton for 15 years. Story ideas welcome at