It’s been a year since three-year-old Dylan Ehler went missing in Truro, N.S., and his parents haven’t given up searching ever since.
It’s presumed the child drowned in the nearby Lepper Brook, which feeds into the Salmon River, which then feeds into the Bay of Fundy.
Dylan’s body has never been found, just his rubber boots, which police found in the waterway on May 6, 2020, roughly seven hours after he was reported missing. One boot was tangled along with debris in the Lepper Brook, while the other boot was found further down the river by firefighters searching the water.
On Thursday afternoon, one year later, Dylan’s family gathered along the banks of the Lepper Brook to float paper boats downstream to honour their child.
“It’s tough, it’s sad, to put a boat out in the memory of a child,” said Jason Ehler, Dylan’s father. “It’s hard to explain. I wish I wasn’t here.”
One year later and the pain still lingers and questions remain for the grieving parents.
“It doesn’t get easier. It gets harder the longer he’s gone, it’s harder and harder,” said Dylan’s mother, Ashley Brown.
Truro police and emergency first responders searched the area for a week before calling off the search, having exhausted all search options available to them. Police said they do not suspect any foul play.
The Lepper Brook was high from the winter melt that day and the water was rushing extremely fast.
Dylan was at his grandmother Dorothy Parsons’ home that day, roughly 100 yards away from the Lepper Brook.
It has been reported that Parsons was out in the yard with Dylan and turned her back to put a dog on a leash and Dylan vanished from sight.
The family has continued to search the waterway ever since, looking for any clues, as there are days the parents admit they question whether Dylan actually went into the river and that doubt has put a strain on the family and their relationship.
“It’s rocky,” said Brown. “I don’t know how else to describe it. There’s a strain there.”
To make matters worse, the parents were targeted and harassed online. As victims of cyberbullying, they had had enough, and hired a lawyer and took action against the alleged harassers.
“On the whole of it, I guess things have improved,” said Brown. “We’ve made some progress but there are still some of those people out there.”
Ehler says he wasn’t satisfied with the police investigation and filed a complaint in the weeks after they called off the search effort. He didn’t think they did enough.
“We’re just left in the dark to wonder,” said Ehler. “It’s almost like they gave up right away.”
Ehler says he won’t give up searching and along the banks of the Lepper Brook on Thursday, he and family members took turns placing paper boats into the stream with personal messages written for Dylan. It was something the parents wanted to do to mark the tragic anniversary.
“Today was more of a gathering for Dylan, to talk about him and spread awareness, to hold a special moment for him,” said Ehler. “He would have loved to have thrown boats in the water.”