Drown­ings in Fla­trock oc­cur too of­ten: res­i­dent

Grief coun­sel­lor in town Wed­nes­day night helped peo­ple deal with tragic loss of 16-year-old boy

The Western Star - - Close To Home - BY GLEN WHIFFEN SALTWIRE NET­WORK

For many in Fla­trock, hear­ing sirens and see­ing emer­gency re­spon­ders rush­ing to the town’s pop­u­lar swim­ming holes brings on a sick­en­ing feel­ing of dread.

Tragedy, as it did on Tues­day when a 16-year-old boy drowned there, has struck the town too many times.

“I knew when I heard the sirens that some­body was gone,” Dave McGrath, who lives next to Big River that leads to the swim­ming holes, said on Wed­nes­day.

“When I hear the sirens I know where they are go­ing. I hate it.”

The RNC con­firmed late Tues­day that the boy had drowned at the pop­u­lar swim­ming hole area. The in­ci­dent oc­curred about 3:30 p.m. when the boy and his friends had gone for a swim to cool off on what was a muggy sum­mer day.

The de­tails of what hap­pened to the boy have not been re­leased, yet it is known the river had been run­ning higher and stronger af­ter a re­cent heavy rain­fall.

McGrath and his wife, town coun­sel­lor Mar­ion McGrath, have been liv­ing near the river for about 40 years. He said he’s aware of about six se­ri­ous in­ci­dents at the swim­ming holes — in­clud­ing drown­ings and near drown­ings — over the years.

“A lot of teenagers, and some older crowd go there, and some come down in the night time to do a lit­tle par­ty­ing,” McGrath said. “But it’s a spot where too many lives have been lost.”

Fla­trock Mayor Dar­rin Thorne said a grief coun­sel­lor was in the town Wed­nes­day evening to speak with rel­a­tives and friends of the boy to help them un­der­stand and deal with what hap­pened. He said fire­fight­ers and other first re­spon­ders were also to meet with the coun­sel­lor as it was a tragic scene for them, as well.

“It was a pretty tragic place to be (Tues­day). I can’t imag­ine what it’s like for the fam­ily and friends of this young man,” Thorne said.

Mem­bers of the Tor­bay Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment, and res­cue crews from St. John’s Re­gional Fire Depart­ment in­clud­ing its cold wa­ter res­cue team, re­sponded Tues­day af­ter­noon.

SaltWire Net­work pho­tog­ra­pher Joe Gib­bons de­scribed a “heart wrench­ing” emo­tional scene when he was there as on­look­ers de­scribed to him how first re­spon­ders were try­ing to re­sus­ci­tate the boy while dis­traught fam­ily mem­bers ar­rived.

The boy was trans­ported to the Health Sci­ences Cen­tre in St. John’s where he was later pro­nounced dead.

Thorne said the town is mak­ing an ef­fort to raise aware­ness about the area. In ad­di­tion to planned warning signs, he said they are try­ing to get the mes­sage out that the pools can be very dan­ger­ous in the days af­ter heavy rain­falls.


A pop­u­lar swim­ming area in Fla­trock is a nat­u­rally carved-out set of pools in the rock walls of Big River that runs through Fla­trock to the nearby ocean. This is the area where a 16-year-old boy trag­i­cally drowned on Tues­day af­ter­noon.

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