Toronto

'He was just a child': Friends, family gather to remember boy who died tragically on Algonquin school trip

On a warm Friday evening outside the elementary school where Jeremiah Perry was a student, friends, teachers and parents gathered to remember the 15-year-old as questions continued to swirl around just how he died on a school trip earlier this month.

Jeremiah Perry, 15, died while swimming during a school trip

The family of Jeremiah Perry honours him with a memorial bike walk on the first day of school since he died. (Submitted by the Perry family)

On a warm Friday evening outside the high school where Jeremiah Perry was a student, fellow classmates and teachers joined the 15-year-old's family to remember the boy they say was the "light" of their family.

"He was just a child," said his aunt Jocelyn Anderson, who led the candlelight vigil as a song written by one of the boy's cousins played in the background.

Jeremiah died on July 4th after slipping under the water at Big Trout Lake in Algonquin Park while out swimming with classmates from C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute. When he didn't resurface, staff called police, according to the Toronto District School Board.

And while his loss has left his entire family reeling, it's been especially devastating for his 17-year-old brother, who was also on the trip when Jeremiah was pulled from the water.

'They were the only two of a kind'

"They were the only two of a kind, so he's lost his pea in the pod so to speak," Anderson told reporters after the ceremony. "It's a very, very difficult time … As you can see we can barely get through this evening."

Jeremiah, said Anderson, could be shy at times. It took time for him to come out of his shell. But the number of those in attendance at Friday's ceremony was a testament to just how big an effect he had on those he met in his brief time, Anderson said.

Friends, teachers and parents gathered to remember the 15-year-old on Friday evening. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC)

Jeremiah's Grade 9 science teacher Mr. Abdul Shakur was one those present Friday evening. The last time he saw Jeremiah was when he came to check his marks near the end of the school year. 

Not only had Jeremiah passed, he was the most improved student in the class, Shakur said. 

"He was so happy and elated. And he gave me one of the biggest bear hugs," recalled the teacher, who shared the boy's Guyanese background.

“He was just a child,” said his aunt Jocelyn Anderson, who led the candle light vigil at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute as a song written by one of the boy’s cousins played in the background. (CBC)

Also in attendance was Jeremiah's farther, Joshua Anderson, who told CBC Toronto ahead of the vigil that the boy did not know how to swim. 

The school board has said repeatedly that every student who went on the camping trip was required to pass a swim test. Anderson, however, told CBC Toronto that he didn't know if his son had done so.

Board reviewing its practices 

In a statement Thursday, the TDSB said it is now interviewing those who conducted swim tests along with those on the trip and those who authorized it. 

"At the same time, I have instructed staff to immediately review our practices and procedures with regards to excursions — particularly those that involve 'high care' activities such as swimming and canoeing," TDSB director John Malloy said in a statement.

The Ontario Provincial Police service and the Office of the Chief Coroner are also investigating. 

As family, friends and teachers gathered to remember the young teen, a song written by cousin played in the background. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC)

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for Jeremiah's funeral and any additional expenses that arise. 

"Jeremiah was an amazing young adult who brought laughter and love to his friends and family. He [was] a compassionate and loving son who cared deeply for his family and friends. He was hardworking, had an outgoing personality," the page reads. "Jeremiah will be deeply missed and forever in our hearts."

Meanwhile the TDSB has said it is helping Jeremiah's family with costs for his funeral, which will be held Monday.

With files from Natalie Nanowski

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