MONTREAL — The family of a Montreal teen who drowned during a high school gym class say they intend to sue the school board and the city, alleging negligence robbed them of a boy who was the centre of their lives.
Blessing Moukoko's parents and uncle made the announcement at their lawyer's office Wednesday morning.
His mother, Evelyne Mavoungou-Tsonga, said she hopes the legal action will shed light on the event and help spare others the nightmare of losing a child.
"It was a big shock to learn there was nobody to look after my son when everybody knew he didn't like water," she said. "He didn't know how to swim. He just wanted to learn."
Boy loved sports, was scared of water
A coroner's report found the 14-year-old spent 38 minutes at the bottom of the pool with nobody noticing during a busy gym class Feb. 15.
Coroner Louis Normandin recommended Tuesday that gym teachers be required to have a minimum of training if they are to give swimming lessons and that a lifeguard provide full-time surveillance during all courses.
He said lessons should be suspended if those conditions can't be met.
As a mom, when I send my child to school, I also expect them to ensure the security of my son.Evelyne Mavoungou-Tsonga
On Wednesday, the teen's parents described him as an intelligent, athletic boy who loved sports but was scared of water.
Mavoungou-Tsonga and the boy's father, Jean-Claude Moukoko, said the entire family is still struggling to understand how the tragedy could have happened.
"As a mom, when I send my child to school, I also expect them to ensure the security of my son," she said.
She called Blessing "the centre of our lives .... He was our champion."
Lawyer Jean-Pierre Menard said many questions still need answering.
He said the family is hoping to view a security video that was seen by the coroner. They would like to know why a boy with very limited swimming skills wasn't given more supervision.
'A story you can't put a price on'
Menard said the civil suit that will be filed in the coming weeks will include a claim for "considerable" damages, adding that no amount can make up for the family's loss.
"He left for school that morning, and his mother never saw him again alive," he said.
"It's a story you can't put a price on."
The boy's uncle, Jean-Pierre Metabanzoulou, said the family intends to start a foundation in Blessing's name that will work to ensure youth can enjoy sports and activities in a safe environment.
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