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Pond death of 5-year-old autistic Saskatoon boy accidental: chief coroner


SASKATOON — A five-year-old autistic boy who fell into a pond on his first full day of school last fall and drowned was fascinated by water, according to a report released Wednesday by Saskatoon Public Schools.

Kindergarten student Ahmedsadiq Hussein Elmmi was found in a pond near Ecole Dundonald School on Sept. 11 after the morning break.

He was pronounced dead in hospital.

The coroner's office said the death was accidental and no inquest will be held.

Saskatoon Public Schools outlined what took place on the day that Elmmi died and listed some of the steps that were taken to ensure his safety prior to his death.

"The school felt confident that they had a solid safety plan in place for Ahmed’s arrival at school," the report says. 

"Unfortunately, in the end the plan was not executed to perfection."

According to the report, his parents informed the school when they registered their child in June that he had autistic symptoms. He was diagnosed as  autistic in August.

They expressed concerns about his safety as he had been known to want to escape from any building he was in. His pre-school teacher also said that he would hold onto an adult's hand while outside.

The report says that the school worked throughout the summer to ensure that a safety plan would be in place for Elmmi.

On the morning of Sept. 11 he tried to get away twice from the educational assistant assigned to him for recess. On a third try, he went into line for the slide, which was his favourite activity.

That's when recess supervisors lost track of him.

As children started to file back into class after recess, playground supervisors were alerted to look for him. His teacher also called emergency services.

The report estimates that all this happened within about five minutes.

"Ahmed’s death was a tragedy of unfathomable magnitude," the report says. "The school division is deeply sorry for the family’s loss and that it occurred while their child was under the school’s supervision.

"This tragic event happened over a very brief period of time, and it is the responsibility of the school division to learn from this event and to consider what precautions can be recommended in the interests of student safety."

The report makes recommendations to the school board to prevent similar deaths.

They include having kindergarten students take part in recess at an alternate time from the rest of the school until the students with critical special needs have become acclimatized to being in the school. Another recommendation calls for having a specific plan for students who are considered to be "runners," including the use of reflective vests, gait belts or tethers.

The coroner's office also called for future ponds be located away from schools, for increased water safety education and for additional barriers around ponds near schools.

Education Minister Gordon Wyant said the government will review the findings and recommendations and help with any necessary safety improvements.

"The safety of all Saskatchewan students is always our government's first priority," Wyant said in a statement.

Earlier this month, a city committee proposed a wrought-iron fence be built to separate Ecole Dundonald School from the park where the pond is.

City council is to consider the recommendation next month.

— By Ryan McKenna in Regina.

Follow @RyanBMcKenna on Twitter

The Canadian Press

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