Victim, 8, lacked lifejacket

Sat, August 28, 2004

NOT ONLY did a supervised boy who drowned at Port Stanley last weekend not know how to swim, but he wasn't wearing a flotation device. And three counsellors from a London agency who accompanied Mitchell Temple-Medhurst on his beach outing to Lake Erie with a group of other boys are now off the job on stress leave.

Those were among the few new details to emerge from a closed-door, three-hour board meeting yesterday at Madame Vanier Children's Services, which organized the trip.

Vanier is an agency that treats kids with emotional and behavioural problems.

Members of the agency's executive committee and board of directors threw up a wall of silence with the media yesterday, and key questions about the events leading up to the St. Thomas boy's death remain unanswered.

Eight-year-old Mitchell died last Saturday after disappearing under the water for 40 minutes while playing with three other boys from Vanier at Port Stanley's Lake Erie beach.

Vanier has said the boys on the outing were supervised by three adults who monitored them from ashore.

Yesterday, as the board meeting broke, the agency's chairman read a prepared statement saying it is conducting an investigation into the drowning and believes staff followed established policies.

But, pressed for answers to key questions about the incident, board chairman Mary Heisz and executive director Barrie Evans declined to go any further.

Evans said he's reviewing statements provided by the counsellors to figure out what exactly happened the day Mitchell drowned.

The boy's family -- who have publicly pined for answers -- couldn't be reached last night for comment.