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(Posted 8:30 a.m., Nov. 4)
Expert states the obvious during next to last day of drowning inquest
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

The circumstances surrounding the 2010 drowning death of Jérèmie Audette are the focus of a coroner's inquest which began on Monday. File photo


An expert on water safety stated what most people following the coroner's inquest into the 2010 drowning death of Jérèmie Audette already knew, that his death was the result of a lack of supervision.

In a clear statement of the obvious, Lifesaving Society Safety Management Director Michael Shane told the inquest that in his opinion “there was a failure to supervise young Jérèmie".

The five member inquest jury was shone pictures of the above ground pool in which Audette drowned, which showed a plastic patio chair sitting on the small wooden deck, but no one was sitting in the chair when the drowning occurred.

The accident happened at the home of Wendy Lapierre who operated an unlicensed day care in the residence. Lapierre had organized a play date for the kids in her as well as two other home-based day cares.

Audette was brought to the play date by his babysitter Cynthia McLellan along with six other kids in her care.

McLellan, 48, had just changed Audette into his swimsuit when she turned her attention to the other children. While she was distracted he managed to climb up the wooden steps to the above ground pool and somehow fell in.

McLellan testified that Audette was only out of her sight for "two or three minutes" before two older kids saw him floating in the pool and started screaming.

Last week, investigators testified that you could not see inside the pool from the patio where McLellan and the other three other adults who were supposed to be supervising the 30 children playing in the backyard.

In another statement of the obvious, Shane told the inquest that an adult should have been supervising access to the pool at all times.

No formal charges were laid in connection with the drowning, although Lapierre was charged under the Day Nurseries Act and fined $2,000 for allowing more than nine kids at her home at a time.

The incident and lack of any criminal charges has raised questions over why none of the caregivers were charged for criminal negligence. The answer may lie in the definition of the charge which states that the accused must have demonstrated, "a wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of others".

It can be argued that a lack of "adequate supervision" does not necessarily equate to a wanton an reckless disregard for the lives or safety of others.

The coroner's inquest will wrap up today with closing arguments after which the jury will be charged with the task of making recommendations aimed at preventing a similar incident from happening in the future.

A police photo shows the South Fallinbrook backyard where two-year-old Jérèmie Audette drowned while attending a playdate on July 28, 2010.. Ottawa Police Service photo


(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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