The family of a 13-year-old boy who drowned in a public pool in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve last weekend is speaking out.
As they live through days of devastating heartbreak, the father and brother of the late Sylvano Tshiunza, Jr., decided to pass along a message in the hopes of preventing the same kind of tragedy from happening again.
“He was a real peacemaker,” said Sylvano Tshiunza Sr, the boy’s father. “He does not want to see anyone get mad whatsoever.”
“He’s always smiling, always smiling,” said the deceased’s 18-year-old brother Schadrac Tshiunza, smiling himself. “He was always happy. You know, he was never mad.”
In the living room of their Laval home hangs the Michael Jordan Space Jam basketball jersey the teen wore the day he died.
Junior was sleeping over at his 15-year-old cousin’s house in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve Friday night, when the two teens snuck out to take a late night dip at the Maisonneuve Pool.
They easily scaled the fence. One message the family hopes to send is that there need to be better fences around public pools.
“The fence around the compound should really be up to a level where no kids or nobody can jump over,” said Sylvano Sr.
There was no rope in the pool denoting where the shallow end finished and the deep end began. Sylvano Jr. slipped in over his head and couldn’t swim.
“I’m thinking if my son was able to to hang on to a rope while he was struggled there, there’s no rope within the swimming pool,” said the boy’s father.
His cousin tried in vain to save him, and the family said he is having a very hard time. Junior’s body was removed from the water at around 4:00 Saturday morning. The boy’s family thinks swimming should be taught in schools.
“They should bring a program within the school board and school community, a program that can help kids to learn how to swim,” said Sylvano Sr.
“They teach them everything at school. You should also teach them how to swim,” said Schadrac.
He said the family is not trying to make excuses, but feel their suggestions could help other families avoid their pain.
“It’s really hard to lose a son. Thirteen years, just gone like that. It is really hard,” said the boy’s father.
Sylvano Jr’s four siblings, as well as his friends from high school, are all in disbelief.
The family is grateful for the community’s support.
“There are a lot of people, I’m not sure if they even know Junior or even us. You know, they just sending love,” said Schedrac.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help them pay for the funeral, which takes place this Saturday.