A teen drowned during a swimming lesson in which no one realized he was at the bottom of the pool for almost three-quarters of an hour, a coroner report shows.
Blessing Moukoko, a 14-year-old student, was with his Grade 8 class taking a swim lesson in the Montreal suburb of Rosemount in February when he drowned. Coroner Dr. Louis Normandin who conducted the report into the incident said the boy’s death broke his heart.
"When you're a coroner, you only deal with deaths. People at the scene don't know what's going to happen,” said Normandin at a press conference Tuesday. “We see it all, [in hindsight,] and we see all the mistakes that were made. It's heartbreaking, because now he's gone, and he was only 14."
Normandin’s report says the teacher for the day was a substitute and wasn’t suitably qualified to teach the swim lesson. Due to this fact, the lifeguard had to step in and help teach the students alongside the sub. This led to no one being in the lifeguard chair during the lesson—compounding the problem that many students in the class either didn’t know how to swim or were weak swimmers.
The report contained a timeline of what happened to Moukoko. It says that the 14-year-old was swimming at the start of the class but went missing while he attempted to swim two laps from the shallow end to the deep end. At one point in the deep end, Moukoko went under.
“You see him go, and you don’t see him come back … It’s very troubling,” Normandin said at the press conference.
Following the lesson there was a free swim in which the students could play about, during this time the teacher and lifeguard were in the shallow end of the pool—still no one noticed the young man at the bottom of the pool. After the class ends the students leave the pool to change, the teacher still doesn't see Moukoko but figures he missed him on his way to the change room. Fifteen minutes later children for the next class gather around the deep end and see what they think to be a dummy at the bottom and notify the lifeguard who finally dives into the pool to save Moukoko.
At this point, Moukoko was underwater for 38 minutes. Within ten minutes paramedics arrived and stabilized Moukoko’s pulse and rushed him to the hospital. Moukoko was taken to the hospital where he was declared brain dead and eventually died six days later.
Classmates and Normandin, who viewed footage of the class, said that it was obvious that, despite his teacher passing him, Moukoko was a below-average swimmer who could barely keep his head above the water.
Police have said they will not be pressing charges as a result of the death.
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