Burke family speaks on tragic loss of five-year-old son

Harrison Burke, the young Calgary boy who drowned in Sylvan Lake on Monday, is being fondly remembered by his grieving family for his love of family, school and the outdoors.

NORGLENWOLD — Harrison Burke, the young Calgary boy who drowned in Sylvan Lake on Monday, is being fondly remembered by his grieving family for his love of family, school and the outdoors.

Speaking not far from where the tragedy occurred in the Summer Village of Norglenwold just a couple of days earlier, Christine and Ron Burke said Wednesday their five-and-a-half year old son Harrison easily lit up the world with his friendly and giving nature.

Christine said on Wednesday he was an “absolutely beautiful” son who loved his twin sister Peyton.

The two were such wonderful buddies, said the heartbroken mother outside the Norglenwold home belonging to Christine’s parents. She clutched a teddy bear just handed to her by Peyton.

Christine called Harrison her “amazing little man.”

He loved soccer and had recently gone to his first soccer camp.

“He and I went for a nice long kayak the day he died,” said Christine, her voice cracking with emotion. “He was my little biker. If I would go for a run, he would go biking with me.”

And he was really good with languages. Harrison was enrolled in a Spanish-speaking school starting in September. He was so excited to go to school and he loved his pre-school, added Christine.

Besides his sister, Harrison was a big fan of his cousins. Plus, he enjoyed the outdoors and being out on the ranch as well as hanging out at Sylvan Lake.

“He was a very giving boy — he had a big soul,” said Christine, her husband standing close by with one arm wrapped around her.

She said the family was now calling the street lamp at the end of her parents’ driveway the Harrison Post.

“It’s the light that takes care of us,” said Christine. “The light that guides us.”

The Calgary couple is now applauding everyone who tried to save their son’s life.

“We’d really like to emphasize how much we appreciate what everyone did — they are the heroes,” said Ron. “Christine and her dad were really heroic in doing what they could when it happened.”

Harrison suddenly fell off the private pier of his grandparents’ home. Adults were nearby. It was just a moment’s inattention and the boy was in the water, said RCMP spokesman Sgt. Patrick Webb on Tuesday.

RCMP confirmed the boy’s death was a drowning, but to make it official an autopsy was scheduled to be performed on Wednesday.

Ron said they don’t know exactly what happened. It’s possible he lost his balance.

“Maybe he was leaning over looking at something, that’s our best guess,” said Ron. “It must have happened in a blink of an eye — even as careful as you think you are being, it shows that an accident can happen. We hope that no other family has to experience something like this.”

Ron said they’ve spoken with longtime residents of the area who say it seems like this is the highest the lake has been in 50 years.

Emergency crews were dispatched at about 7 p.m.

Paramedics and firefighters arrived at the home in Norglenwold, a community of about 225 residents on the southwestern shores of Sylvan, where they continued to try to revive the boy. RCMP responded quickly as well.

Harrison was taken by ground ambulance to Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, where the doctors and nurses continued working on him.

Ron was at the family home in southeast Calgary, so RCMP alerted Calgary Police Service that they needed their help in getting him to the hospital as quickly and as safely as possible. A Calgary police inspector decided one of the service’s helicopters would be used to fly Ron to Red Deer.

“It was a wonderfully generous thing they did, without any request,” said Ron. “It was a surprise to me.”

Victim services personnel from Sylvan Lake were also called.

Ron said everyone’s actions that night were “heroic.”

“We’re so grateful and they’re both such wonderful communities,” said Ron, referring to Red Deer and Sylvan Lake. “We’ve had so many people reach out to support us.”

ltester@www.reddeeradvocate.com

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