Family members, friends and members of Saskatoon’s Islamic community laid to rest a five-year-old boy on Tuesday, just a day after he was pronounced dead in hospital after being found in a pond near Ecole Dundonald School.
A large group of people stood outside the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan Mosque on Copland Crescent as the boy’s small casket was carried down a path and into the back of a waiting hearse.
A small memorial to the child, who was in Kindergarten, was set up at the edge of the unfenced retention pond and the flag at the nearby school was lowered to half staff.
Extra counsellors and school division superintendents were at the school to help children and their families as they cope with the loss. Some parents have raised concerns about the retention pond; Melissa Ackerman, a Saskatoon mom, has started a petition asking the city to take action.
“Having a child of my own who is only five years older, as a parent I felt like I needed to help those who couldn’t help themselves to make change,” she said, noting about 185 people have signed the petition.
More than enough people have voiced a desire for change, and she hopes the petition will help prevent any future tragedies, she said.
Merran and Jesse Fedorwick were at the school dropping off their five-year-old son for his first day of Kindergarten on Tuesday. Merran said it was an emotional drive up to the school.
“I can’t imagine putting my feet in the shoes of those families, those first responders, all of the teachers here, anyone that was involved in the supervision of that recess on that specific day,” she said. “It’s so sad, it’s so tragic.”
Angela Gardiner, acting director of transportation and utilities for the city, said the city will work with the public school division on what steps regarding the retention pond, noting the city has more than 100 unfenced water features.
“The ponds are designed as part of neighbourhoods, from both a storm pond perspective, but also to provide amenities to the neighbourhoods,” she said.
“There is a lot of interest in being able to access these ponds, but going forward we will be talking to the school board and trying to address or make any improvements that we can.”
She said the original pond was designed in 1983 as a dry pond. In 2005, after consultations with the community, it was converted to a wet pond to both provide a water amenity and better deal with storm water in the area.
While the city hasn’t had any formal communications with the division since the incident, she expects it to occur in the coming days, Gardiner said, noting she’d like to offer her condolences to the family and the school community.
“Being a parent, it’s not an easy situation and I can’t imagine what the family’s going through,” she said. “We are continually working with the school boards to address and ensure that our students and our children in the city are safe.”
Saskatoon police have classified the death as non-suspicious. The Office of the Chief Coroner is investigating.