'It's been too long': Quebec man recounts trying to save boy in backyard pool
The Montreal Children's Hospital issued an "urgent alert" Monday after two separate pool incidents in Quebec left one child dead and another in critical condition in a dangerous weekend in the province.
Joe Pereira was watching TV at his home in Repentigny, Que. Sunday afternoon when his wife came inside telling him a neighbour two doors down from them was screaming for help after her five-year-old son had fallen in her pool.
Pereira and his wife rushed to the woman's backyard and jumped into the pool to retrieve the boy.
He searched the deep end while his wife combed through the shallow end of the pool, which was filled with murky water since it hadn't been opened yet for the season.
"The water was all green, murky and full of leaves, and you don't see anything in the water. I had trouble seeing my arms underwater," Pereira said.
It took about 20 minutes of frantic searching before the boy was found by another neighbour who joined the rescue effort.
"After seven minutes it's rare that you can survive that. My wife was screaming, 'it's too long, he's been in there too long.' I tried everything I could to try to get him out the first shot I could but unfortunately, it wasn't enough," Pereira said.
Police arrived on scene just as the boy was pulled from the deep end.
"The cops showed up at that moment and there was one that jumped into the water to help take him out and the [paramedics] started doing CPR right away," Pereira said.
The boy was rushed to St-Justine Hospital in critical condition as the family and neighbours are still reeling from the near-drowning.
"It's hard enough for me as a neighbour, you know. As parents, when I came back home, I hugged my kids. It's not easy," Pereira said, with his voice breaking.
CHILD DROWNED IN ST-LAMBERT
The day before, a four-year-old boy from St-Lambert, on the south Shore of Montreal, was found unconscious in his family's backyard pool.
He was pronounced dead in hospital.
Longueuil police (SPAL) said the family's pool was fenced, and it's currently unclear how the child got in.
Also on Saturday, a five-year-old boy was found unconscious in a pool and rescued by an adult.
On Monday, the Montreal Children's Hospital issued a water safety alert to remind the public that "anyone can be at risk" and to ensure constant adult supervision at all times.
After several coroner's reports, Quebec's Ministry of Municipal Affairs has tightened security measures around residential pools under the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act.
The ministry first mandated that as of July 1, 2023, all pools in the province need to have a 1.2-metre-high fence on all sides, as well as a door that closes and locks automatically. They later extended the deadline to 2025.
It's not clear if any of the pools involved in the weekend's incidents had the new fencing already up.
While gates and fences help, nothing replaces the supervision of a nearby adult, according to the Montreal Swimming Institute.
"The truth is, if kids really really want to get into a pool, they'll find a way to get into a pool," said Adam Di Fulvio, president and CEO of the institute.
"Even if there's a fence and a latched gate, they'll drag over a toy or some sort of obstacle and use that to climb over."
'IT CAN HAPPEN IN 15 TO 20 SECONDS'
With pools starting to open for summer, the Quebec Lifesaving Society is warning parents to be extra vigilant, especially when it comes to young children.
Society director Raynald Hawkins says children should always be closely supervised while near bodies of water.
"With toddlers it can happen in 15 to 20 seconds, it's silent," he said.
He said caretakers should keep their young children within arm's reach.
"It's like crossing the street. You always want to take the kids by the hand. This is the same reality with the backyard pool."
Pereira said Sunday's near-drowning on his street happened in a flash, serving as an important warning for all parents.
"I just helped because I heard people screaming for help. I would just hope that if something like that would have ever happened to my kids that somebody would come out also," he said.
"Just everybody has to be careful."
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News Montreal reporters Touria Izri and Kelly Greig
This story originally said that the deadline for installing new safety measures at pools was July 1, 2023. In fact, the deadline has been extended to 2025. CTV regrets the error.