NNSL Photo/Graphic

Canadian North

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Drowning victim relative upset with NWT coroner's report
Nine recommendations on beach directed at GNWT in report on boy's death - lifeguards not among them

Daniel Campbell
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A coroner's report into the drowning death of seven-year-old Lodune Shelley last summer makes no recommendation for lifeguards at Long Lake beach at Fred Henne Territorial Park.

NNSL photo/graphic

Lodune Shelley, 7, drowned while swimming at Long Lake Beach. - Facebook photo

Children's cries for help ignored

Pleas for help from the group of young boys who found Lodune Shelley underwater at Long Lake beach were initially ignored when they went for help, according to the coroner's report on the incident.

Seven-year-old Shelley was taken to the beach by his babysitter around 1 p.m. on June 27. He was given an inflatable toy and was observed playing in the water and on the beach.

At one point, a group of three boys, all about 10 years old, found Shelley submerged underwater and quickly ran ashore to get help from adults.

The report states initially no one responded.

Entering the water a second time, the boys found Shelley - still underwater - and one of them went ashore to get help again. The second time, a 15-year-old male responded and pulled Shelley to shore.

Adults quickly came to assist and start CPR on the unresponsive Shelley. An ambulance was called at 3:47 p.m. The boy was taken to hospital and pronounced dead an hour later.

The report confirms the cause of death was accidental drowning, but doesn't offer any insight into how he drowned.

The omission is a glaring one for Patrick Scott, grandfather of the deceased.

"Quite frankly, I'm disappointed," Scott said.

"(The coroner) points out that children were ignored when they found Lodune underwater. No one paid attention to them - this is precisely why we need lifeguards."

Last fall, David Ramsay, minister for the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI), made a conditional pledge in the legislative assembly to put lifeguards in place at Fred Henne by next summer, "if it's determined lifeguards should be put in place."

Scott said he hopes to hold the minister to his word.

"I'm still waiting for him to confirm there will be lifeguards. I'm waiting for him to honour that commitment," Scott said.

Released yesterday, the report includes nine recommendations directed at the department to improve safety at the beach. The NWT's Coroner's Office was assisted by the Lifesaving Society of Alberta and NWT in its review of the incident.

Six of the nine recommendations involve public education and awareness, urging ITI to erect signs and teach beach-goers about water safety.

The furthest the report goes into recommending lifeguards is suggesting the government should work with the Lifesaving Society to complete a "lifeguard feasibility study."

Scott says he doesn't fault the author of the report, coroner Ruth McLean. He praised the detailed recommendations, but said he feels lifeguards were left out for a reason.

"The government does not want to spend money putting lifeguards at that beach," Scott said.

"It's about money. I can't see any other reason."

Yesterday in the legislative assembly, Ramsay reaffirmed his pledge to hire lifeguards, but qualified his commitment yet again, adding that would occur if it makes the beach safer.

"The answer is still yes," Ramsay said after Range Lake MLA Daryl Dolynny asked him if he stood by the commitments he made in October. "If having lifeguards at Fred Henne beach is going to make it safer, we'll try our best to put lifeguards there."

He said he's expecting a report from the Lifesaving Society on just that in the next few weeks.

Lifeguards watched over Fred Henne up until 2003, when a cost-sharing agreement between the City of Yellowknife and the GNWT broke down. The two levels of government disagreed who should pay the lifeguard bills - estimated at $21,000 in 2004 - and the GNWT pulled funding.

The government now estimates it would cost $120,000 to $150,000 per year to fund lifeguards at Fred Henne.

"The issue of lifeguards at Fred Henne beach has never been an issue of money," Ramsay said yesterday in the legislative assembly.

"If we determine that service is needed, we will find the money."

Scott said a coroner's recommendation to have lifeguards at the beach could have made the difference.

"I think our children in this community are worth that level of safety, not some part-way measure," Scott said.

"I would love to see some meaning brought to this tragedy."

- with files from Cody Punter

NNSL photo/graphic

Coroner's Recommendations

  • Keep working with the Lifesaving Society to enhance water safety education
  • Increase protection at Long Lake beach to one level below lifeguard supervision
  • Consider implementing an admission policy at the beach (e.g. asking unsupervised children to leave)
  • Make the public aware children under 10 must be within arms reach of a caregiver
  • Educate beach-goers on risks and hazards of inflatable toys
  • Inform beach-goers of water hazards, such as wind, marine life, bottom terrain and temperature
  • Encourage the public to pursue "swim to survive" training
  • Continue to operate life-jacket loaner station
  • Work with the Lifesaving Society to determine feasibility of making Long Lake a supervised beach

Source: Office of the Chief Coroner of the NWT

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.