A final group of Toronto District School Board students has returned home from Algonquin Park after the body of a 15-year-old boy was discovered in the water during a field trip on Wednesday morning.
The organized field trip turned deadly when Jeremiah Perry went in the water to clean himself off after a day of portaging at around 8 p.m. on Tuesday. According to police, he went under the water and did not resurface.
Ontario Provincial Police located the teenager’s body in Big Trout Lake around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Some of the students and staff returned home yesterday while another group returned late Thursday evening.
Boran Balcim, a 17-year-old student who was with Perry at the time of his disappearance, told CTV News Toronto that Perry was not wearing a lifejacket at that time.
Balci said he thinks Perry was trying to grab for him as he was being pulled under the water.
“Something pulled me down,” Balci said. “I had a lifejacket on but still it was very strong.”
On Wednesday evening, Perry’s father told CTV News Toronto over the phone that two of his sons were on the trip and neither of them knew how to swim.
The TDSB says safety protocol requires all students who take part in the trip to pass a swimming test prior to going.
“Our safety protocols dictate that any excursion like this requires a swim test,” TDSB spokesperson Shari Schwartz-Maltz said. “When you have canoes involved there’s often – if not always – a specific kind of swim test because lake conditions can differ but again I don’t want to speculate.”
But Perry’s father says that was not the case.
Speaking with reporters on Thursday, the principal of C.W. Jefferys C.I. – the school Perry attended – Monday Gala said there will be a time and place for answers regarding the safety protocols completed before the trip.
“Let’s give it some time,” he said. “Let’s let the investigation come up with what it needs to come up with and then we will answer the questions at that point.”
“We are looking for answers – I get that – but this matter is an active investigation and everybody is sad about this and for me actually I think that is where the focus should be – the focus should be on the grieving family, on a school that is dealing with losing someone that they know.”
Scwartz-Maltz said the leader of the trip is one of the four staff members who remained with students in Algonquin Park.
“Our complete focus for the last 24 hours has been really on supporting the family through this tragedy because let us not forget this has been a horrific tragedy and supporting our kids to bring them home – that’s been our complete focus,” she said. “The details of this specific incident, the swim test, what happened – when everybody’s back and we can debrief everybody and we’ll know more.”
The OPP is handling the investigation into the fatal incident.