Teen who drowned on trip in Algonquin Park failed his swim test: TDSB
Rachael D'Amore And Chris Herhalt, CP24.com
Published Wednesday, August 16, 2017 10:59AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 16, 2017 5:50PM EDT
A 15-year-old boy who drowned in a lake in Algonquin Park last month while on a Toronto District School Board-sponsored canoe and camping trip failed a swim test but was inexplicably still allowed to go, a board official said Wednesday.
Jerimiah Perry and his brother, Marion, were two of fifteen students who did not pass a mandatory swim test administered in a lake prior to the July trip, TDSB director of education John Malloy said.
Perry was swimming with classmates in the park’s Big Trout Lake during a camping trip on July 4 when he suddenly went under the water and didn’t resurface.
His body was found the next day.
Malloy said the board procedure required that Perry be offered swimming lessons and an additional swim test before being allowed on the camping trip, but records indicate Perry was not offered any lessons or an additional test before he was cleared to go.
“I am deeply troubled by these findings, that such a critical safety requirement in our procedures appears not to have been followed,” Malloy said. “On behalf of the TDSB, I offer my most sincere apology and regret.”
Speaking on Wednesday afternoon, Jeremiah’s father, Joshua Anderson, told reporters he and the rest of the family were still processing revelations from the board’s ongoing investigation.
“I’m not satisfied, I will never be satisfied, but I am appreciative,” Anderson said of the board and its efforts.
Malloy added that none of the students who failed the swim tests should have been allowed on the trip, and he could not say why they were allowed to go.
“The core of our investigation revolves around how this could have happened.”
Two other students who went on the trip did not even undergo a swim test, Malloy said.
Going forward, the board will require school principals to verify that students have completed and passed physical capability tests before a trip will be allowed to proceed.
Students wishing to embark on trips will be provided with their test results, as well as their parents, Malloy said.
Further measures will be announced once the board completes a formal review of its field trip procedures.
“(Parents) must have confidence that the appropriate safety measures are in place,” Malloy said. “We take this responsibility seriously and we will work diligently to restore confidence.”
When asked whether the outcome of the trip would have been different if he was given notice that his son failed his swim test, Anderson seemed to agree it would.
“I think everything would have changed. . . everything would have been different.”
He said that he hoped the board would continue to develop ways to make sure what happened to Jeremiah would never happen again.
“I can only hope that it’s not just lip service or something on paper – that they actually do it.”
He said outdoor trips like the one his sons were on can be “life and death.”
Anderson previously told CTV News Toronto that he believed his son was allowed to wear a life jacket during his test. But students who went on the trip with Jeremiah said he was not wearing any flotation device around the time he was last seen.
Malloy said the two teachers who organized and led the trip into Algonquin Park, which involved canoeing and portaging over the span of several days, have declined to speak with school board investigators regarding what occurred, on the advice of legal counsel.
Both teachers are currently on home assignment.
The Coroner's office and Renfrew County OPP are also investigating the incident, both organizations told CP24 Wednesday that their inquiries are ongoing and no further information could be released.