PEI

Despite 'complete heartache,' family of teen who died at sea trying to stay strong

When Kim Reilly lost her eyesight from diabetes eight years ago, it was her son Ethan, then just nine years old, who was strong for her. Now his family is trying to stay strong for him.

'He was my guide, he was my spirit, he was my encouragement'

Megan Kinch says she and Ethan Reilly liked to go to the beach and watch the sunset. (Joni Arsenault)

When Kim Reilly lost her eyesight from diabetes eight years ago, it was her son Ethan, then just nine years old, who helped look after her.

He put drops in her eyes. He tracked her blood sugar levels. 

"He had to learn how to do my needles because, blind, I had no way to do them," she said.

Ethan would take his mother for walks and rides on the four-wheeler. They'd go to hockey games together — "just making me live," Reilly said.

"He was everything to me. He was my guide, he was my spirit, he was my encouragement."

Boat capsized

Ethan, 17, died when the 14-foot boat he was on capsized off the shore near Northport in western P.E.I. on Sept. 16. His body was found Sept. 20. He was on the boat with two friends, also 17. Max MacIsaac was able to swim to shore. Alex Hutchinson's body was recovered Sept. 24.

Despite "complete heartache," Kim Reilly said just as Ethan was strong for her, she is now trying to stay strong for him.

"He would want nothing more than that."

Ethan leaves behind his mother, father Kyle, older sister Courtney and girlfriend, Megan Kinch, who lives with the Reilly family in Bloomfield.

Kinch said Ethan was in a good mood the day he went with his friends to test a new motor for the boat. The last she heard from him was in a text message at 6:17 p.m. "He said, 'How are you doing Meg?' And I said, 'Good, supper's ready.' And then I said, 'Where are you at? You're not home.'"

The answer didn't come.

Kim Reilly with her son Ethan when he was seven years old. He died Sept. 16 at the age of 17. (Submitted by Megan Kinch)

Shortly after 9 p.m., the family got word of the tragedy and rushed to the shore, about a 15-minute drive away.

Kinch said she will always cherish the memories of Ethan during their three-and-a-half years together. They first met while sitting in the bleachers with friends at the Tignish arena in March 2017.

"He looked over at me and asked who I was and I told him my name and smiled at him and that's when he told me, 'Wow you're going to have beautiful teeth when you get your braces off.' That's when it all started."

His kind soul has touched the hearts of many and will forever be remembered.— Megan Kinch

They've had many adventures since, she said. When they got their drivers' licences last fall, they would take the car to the beach and watch the sunset.

"We even had our own little spot where we could go and sit there peacefully together. There was nowhere else we would rather be. This past June we celebrated our three years there where I opened a card from Ethan that said, 'Thank you for the best three years of my life, lots more to come.'"

Kinch said Ethan was known for being funny and athletic, but she said his best quality was his "huge heart and his protective nature." His goal was to be a paramedic.

"There's not one person whom Ethan would put himself in front of. He was anything and everything but selfish," she said.

"His kind soul has touched the hearts of many and will forever be remembered."

Heroes in West Prince

Kim Reilly said the West Prince community, including her church, continues to show its strong character in tough times. The family thanked the volunteers and emergency crews who have spent days searching for the boys, and others for providing food and comfort. 

"There is not a place in the world you could live that is more supportive than West Prince," she said.

"Ethan is my hero, but every single person in West Prince is my hero because they helped bring my boy home."

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About the Author

Shane Ross is a former newspaper and TV journalist in Halifax, Ottawa and Charlottetown. He joined CBC P.E.I.'s web team in 2016.

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