Saskatchewan

Sucker River boy, 6, swept away by current drowns

Community leaders have confirmed a six-year-old boy from Sucker River, who just graduated from kindergarten, drowned on Friday. 

Local band councillor says community mourns adventurous, energetic boy

Devin Bernatchez, Sucker River councillor with the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, says boats were in the water searching for the boy about 45 minutes after he was swept away by strong currents. (Devin Bernatchez/Facebook)

A six-year-old boy from Sucker River, who had just graduated from kindergarten, drowned on Friday. 

Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson confirmed the boy's age and that he had drowned Friday afternoon to CBC News. She declined to name the boy out of respect for his family 

Sucker River is about 270 kilometres north of Prince Albert and part of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band. 

"There were kids swimming and he might have gotten swept off by the current," Cook-Searson said. 

"A couple of our community members tried to save him, but they were struggling to get him because it's fast-moving water there and the water's high this year, so they couldn't get him."

She said local band councillor Devin Bernatchez contacted her immediately to inform her of the situation.

The community of Sucker River, home to about 400 people according to the 2016 census, turned out in force to support the family, Cook-Searson said. 

"[The family] was really grateful for the support that they received," she said.  "People just came, just dropped everything they were doing just to be there for the family." 

Yesterday was a difficult day, Cook-Searson said, and she expects the coming days will be difficult for the community.

Bernatchez told CBC News he spent part of Saturday morning with the boy's family, who are devastated and heartbroken. 

He said the band will be doing all it can to support them in the coming days. 

The community is in mourning and will also be doing the best it can to support the boy's family, he said.

A happy, energetic boy

Bernatchez said the boy attended his wife Honey's kindergarten class over the last school year. 

"He graduated kindergarten just a couple of weeks ago. We had a celebration and he was there," Bernatchez said. 

"He was just full of life. My wife describes him as a very energetic young boy who loved to explore and he loved activities and we're going to miss him dearly." 

'Blessed' to have support

Cook-Searson said nearby search-and-rescue and recovery crews, including teams from Stanley Mission and Grandmother's Bay were quickly deployed, along with representatives of the Canadian Rangers, RCMP, the La Ronge Regional Fire Department and the Sucker River Fire Department. 

She said a remote underwater vehicle (ROV), which has previously helped in other rescue and recovery efforts was also used in the search for the boy.

"We're really grateful, we're really blessed to have that," she said. 

"[Being] able to build that capacity of having that ROV and our local guys trained is really important. I don't know how long it would have taken to search."

Bernatchez, too, was unsure how long the search could have taken without the local resources.

He said the first calls came in about the boy being swept away around 2:15 Friday afternoon. Boats were in the water searching by as early as 3:00 p.m.

Bernatchez said by 7:20 p.m. the boy's body had been recovered from where the Sucker River meets Lac La Ronge.

He praised the quick mobilization of crews and the efforts of three individuals from the local fire crew who began diving to search for the boy in the rough waters before diving gear arrived on scene.

Cook-Searson said victim services teams were brought in for emotional support for those involved. 

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