BRITISH COLUMBIA

Drowned Boy Vondrae Martin Almost Drowned Last Year

03/07/2014 07:40 EST | Updated 05/07/2014 05:59 EDT
Six-year-old Vondrae Martin, who fell into North Vancouver's Taylor Creek and drowned Thursday afternoon, had survived a near drowning a year ago.

Vondrae appeared at a news conference in November clutching a teddy bear. His grandmother had just been honoured for pulling him from her swimming pool and resuscitating him after he had nearly drowned in March 2013.

At the time, his mom Nadia told reporters, "he's just your normal, active five-year-old."

It was Nadia who made a frantic phone call Thursday reporting that her son had gone missing from where he was playing.

On Friday, Vondrae's grandmother, Jene Johnson, told reporters the boy was a curious child who loved to explore. She was out collecting the young boy's toys Friday and said she hadn't slept all night.

Counsellors brought into school

Counsellors were brought into Dorothy Lynas school Friday to help students deal with Vondrae's death. The boy went to kindergarten there.

School District administrator Brad Baker says a tragedy like this is hard on everyone.

"We provide the classroom teacher with a script to read to the students," said Baker. "We met with the classroom that was most impacted with the parents and children, and then we met with parents separately to give them resources they can bring home to talk with their children about grief and loss."

Baker says the boy's family called in early yesterday to say Vondrae was sick and wouldn't be going to school. RCMP haven't yet said how he ended up in a creek across a park from his home.   

Memorial grows

A memorial continued to grow Friday in Garibaldi Park, which borders Taylor Creek.

Neighbour Monica Kuwalek says her heart goes out to the family. She has a six-year-old son of her own.

"So this is just an unimaginable tragedy,. I just cannot believe I've been here almost 10 years and this is such a safe place for our children to play. In the summer, there's barely any water here. It's just unfortunate."

The area in Garibaldi Park where Vondrae fell into the fast-running creek was not fenced off, unlike other sections of the creek, and leaves along the steep embankment made the area very slippery.

Police respond to frantic call

The incident began on Thursday afternoon when North Vancouver RCMP received a frantic call from a Bowron Court residence reporting that a boy had gone missing from where he was playing, just before 2 p.m. PT. 

"Our members attended the scene and quickly learned where the child was playing and did a search of the area," said Sgt. Darrin Ramey.

"A witness who was walking her dog located the child in the creek face down."

Ramey said two police officers jumped into the stream in water up to their necks.

They pulled out the boy and began CPR.

The ambulance showed up a minute later but Ramey said it was impossible to say how long he was in the water. The boy was immediately airlifted to BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver, but he did not survive.

Ramey said the creek was about three metres wide and running fast with all the recent rainfall. The water had risen to the top of the creek's banks and was a metre and a half deep in the area where Vondrae was found.