Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS                                Evelyne Mavoungou-Tsonga, mother of Blessing Moukoko attends a news conference in Montreal, Wednesday. Blessing died during a swimming pool accident in February of 2018.

Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Evelyne Mavoungou-Tsonga, mother of Blessing Moukoko attends a news conference in Montreal, Wednesday. Blessing died during a swimming pool accident in February of 2018.

Grieving loss of their ‘champion,’ family of drowned boy to sue school board, city

MONTREAL — The family of a Montreal teen who drowned during a high school gym class say they intend to sue the school board and the city, alleging negligence robbed them of a boy who was the centre of their lives.

Blessing Moukoko’s parents and uncle made the announcement at their lawyer’s office Wednesday morning.

His mother, Evelyne Mavoungou-Tsonga, said she hopes the legal action will shed light on the event and help spare others the nightmare of losing a child.

“It was a big shock to learn there was nobody to look after my son when everybody knew he didn’t like water,” she said. “He didn’t know how to swim. He just wanted to learn.”

A coroner’s report found the 14-year-old spent 38 minutes at the bottom of the pool with nobody noticing during a busy gym class Feb. 15.

The report found that the teacher in charge of the class, who was a substitute, didn’t have the qualifications to teach swimming. As a result, the lifeguard on duty ended up helping teach the course and “could no longer adequately supervise the swimmers,” it read.

Coroner Louis Normandin recommended Tuesday that gym teachers be required to have a minimum of training if they are to give swimming lessons and that a lifeguard provide full-time surveillance during all courses.

He said lessons should be suspended if those conditions can’t be met. He ruled the incident a “violent accidental death.”

On Wednesday, the teen’s parents described him as an intelligent, athletic boy who loved sports but was scared of water.

Mavoungou-Tsonga and the boy’s father, Jean-Claude Moukoko, said the entire family is still struggling to understand how the tragedy could have happened.

“As a mom, when I send my child to school, I also expect them to ensure the security of my son,” she said.

Mavoungou-Tsonga said she hasn’t been able to work or sleep since she lost her son and can’t keep his image out of her mind.

She described sitting with him at the hospital as he clung to life, and feeling his body slowly go cold as he died after suffering irreparable brain damage.

The family, which immigrated to Canada when Blessing was a young child, includes several siblings and grandparents who are devastated by his death, his mother said.

She called him “the centre of our lives …. He was our champion.”

Lawyer Jean-Pierre Menard said many questions still need answering.

He said the family is hoping to view a security video that was seen by the coroner. They would like to know why a boy with almost no swimming skills wasn’t given extra help or kept out of the deep end.

He said the blame for the incident should lie not with the lifeguard and teacher but with the school and the municipal pool system that allowed the class to proceed as it did.

“This would have been preventable with a minimum of supervision,” he alleged.

Menard said the civil suit that will be filed in the coming weeks will include a claim for “considerable” damages, adding that no amount can make up for the family’s loss.

“He left for school that morning, and his mother never saw him again alive,” he said. “It’s a story you can’t put a price on.”

The boy’s uncle, Jean-Pierre Metabanzoulou, said the family intends to start a foundation in Blessing’s name that will work to ensure youth can enjoy sports and activities in a safe environment.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

Quebec

Just Posted

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Alberta’s declining COVID-19 numbers are a positive sign for the province. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer down to 634 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone down to 2,054 active cases

Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Rylan Thiessen (26) guards the front of the net as goalie Connor Unger makes a save on Winnipeg Ice forward Skyler Bruce during a Western Hockey League game on April 14 at the Brandt Centre in Regina. Brandon won 5-3. (Keith Hershmiller Photography)
Two big trades provide stability for Red Deer Rebels

All Connor Ungar wanted was an opportunity and he’s finally found it.… Continue reading

(Screenshot).
Seven central Alberta charities benefit from community foundation grants

Seven central Alberta charities have received grants from the Red Deer and… Continue reading

Red Deer Gun Show organizer, Harold Drok, is concerned $1 fee from each ticket sale will go to Westerner Park once shows can be restarted there. This new policy replaces parking fees which will be waived for future Westerner Park events. (Black Press file photo)
Event organizer concerned about Westerner Park’s new parking fee model

A show organizer is concerned this could impact proceeds

A rodeo south of Bowden drew a huge crowd on May 1 and 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy Mom’s Diner’s Facebook page)
Organizers of central Alberta anti-lockdown rodeo plead not guilty

Ty and Gail Northcott charged under the Public Health Act

Red Deer musician Curtis Phagoo is glad the Alberta government is investing $2 million to help the province’s live music industry, but he would have liked the criteria to be expanded, so the money could be used as relief to cover revenue shortfalls. (Contributed photo by Cory Michaud)
Red Deer musicians welcome $2M in grants to help live music, but would have preferred relief program

The money is for future projects and can’t be used for retroactive expenses

(CPAC)
Trudeau says he knew about investigation into general overseeing vaccines weeks ago

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he learned weeks ago that… Continue reading

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Canadian residents are allowed to head to the United States for a COVID-19 vaccine and avoid quarantine on return if they meet some straightforward conditions, the Public Health Agency of Canada confirms.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Canadians can drive to U.S. for COVID-19 vax and avoid quarantine, Ottawa confirms

TORONTO — Canadian residents are allowed to head to the United States… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Quebec can modify part of the Canadian Constitution unilaterally: Trudeau

MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Quebec can unilaterally modify part… Continue reading

In this Thursday, April 29, 2021, file photo, giant bucket-wheel excavators extract coal at the controversial Garzweiler surface coal mine near Jackerath, West Germany. Canadian environmentalists are welcoming a report from the International Energy Agency that says new fossil fuel investment must end if the world is to meet its climate goals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Martin Meissner
Canadian environmentalists happy with International Energy Agency report

Environmentalists say a report from the International Energy Agency that concludes investment… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ceasefire needed in Israeli-Palestinian conflict to avoid loss of more civilians: PM

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is calling for a… Continue reading

A forest fire burns late into the evening northeast of Prince Albert, Sask., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kayle Neis
Saskatchewan wildfire grows, forcing evacuations in the area to expand

PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — Dry conditions and strong winds caused a large… Continue reading

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Tam hopeful for summer even as Canada hits grim death milestone in COVID-19 pandemic

OTTAWA — Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says she expects… Continue reading

Sheffield United’s Daniel Jebbison celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Sheffield United at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, Sunday, May 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Alex Pantling/Pool via AP
Canadian teenager Daniel Jebbison turns heads with Premier League goal

Jebbison, 17, is the youngest player in Premier League history to score on his first start in England’s top tier

Most Read