Girl who died at resort near Collingwood was 'vibrant student'

A girl who died in an apparent drowning along with her mother at Mountain Springs Lodge Resort near Collingwood, Ont., on Tuesday has been identified as a five-year-old kindergarten student at an elementary school in Toronto.

Chloe Gong was pronounced dead in hospital along with her 34-year-old mother

The pool at Mountain Springs Lodge Resort near Collingwood has been cordoned off after a mother and daughter from Markham, Ont., died in an apparent drowning there on Tuesday. (Grant Linton/CBC)

A girl who died in an apparent drowning along with her mother at Mountain Springs Lodge Resort near Collingwood, Ont., on Tuesday has been identified as a five-year-old kindergarten student at an elementary school in Toronto. 

Chloe Gong attended Iroquois Junior Public School on Chartland Boulevard in Scarborough, according to the Toronto District School Board (TDSB).

The principal, Marcia Pate, described Chloe as a "vibrant student who will be remembered fondly by her friends and teachers. 

"This has been a sombre day for all of us at the school as we mourn this tragedy," she said. 

Police have not yet released the name of Chloe's 34-year-old mother. Both were from Markham, Ont. 

Caught on video

The Ontario Provincial Police says officers from its Collingwood and Blue Mountain detachments, as well as paramedics and firefighters, were dispatched to the resort at 7:15 p.m. ET Tuesday for reports that two people had drowned in the pool. 

Both were taken to hospital and pronounced dead.

"Investigators are piecing together what happened, but a drowning can take place very quickly, whether it's in a controlled environment like a pool or even Georgian Bay," said OPP Const. Martin Hachey.

Hachey said autopsies were to be conducted on Wednesday, and the mother would be identified on Thursday.

Video obtained by CBC News shows Chloe Gong and her mother calmly entering the pool near Collingwood, Ont.

"It's an unfortunate incident, certainly a very tragic one, and I am sure devastating for the family."  

Video from the resort obtained by CBC News shows Chloe and her mother calmly and carefully walking down the steps into the shallow end of the pool just before 7 p.m. Chloe appears to hold onto a small flutterboard with her mother by her side.

The video ends but starts again when someone walks by, activating a motion sensor. The video shows the mother flailing in the water and the child can't be seen. It takes a few more minutes for more people to arrive and realize that two people are drowning.

'Shaken to the core'

Shores to Slope Management, a company located near the resort, is responsible for the outdoor pool.

Officials with the business are not commenting on the deaths, but signs at the pool indicate it is unsupervised and there are no lifeguards.

Meantime, the Lodges at Blue Mountain, an onsite rental management company at the resort, confirmed the Gong family rented a condo at the resort from a private owner.

Police, paramedics and firefighters were called to the resort shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday. (Grant Linton/CBC)

The company's president, Sheldon Rosen, said he helped the father and husband of the victims pack up the family's things. 

"I tried to comfort him as best I could," Rosen said.

"Obviously, as you can expect, he was quite shocked, as I was… My staff are shaken to the core."

Grief counselors available

Barbara Byers, the Canadian Lifesaving Society's public education director, says drownings can happen "in seconds and very quietly."

In Canada, 423 people drowned in 2015, the most recent year for which figures are available, including 145 people in Ontario, she said.

"There is less than one per cent of the drownings that happen in a public pool where a lifeguard is supervising," said Byers. Private backyard pools are the primary setting where children under five years old usually drown.

In a letter to parents at Chloe's school, the TDSB says grief counselors will be available to help staff and students.

The letter says details about the funeral have not been confirmed and that information will be shared with the school community based on the wishes of the family. 

An investigation is ongoing, police say.