MANDEL: Etobicoke man accused of canoeing impaired when boy drowned heading to trial

Impaired driving causing death is all too well known. But a trial is slated to begin in Oshawa next week on a charge far more rare.

David Sillars, 38, of Etobicoke is accused of boating under the influence — and causing the death of a young boy who drowned on the Muskoka River in Bracebridge after their canoe flipped and he went over High Falls.

Thomas Rancourt was just eight years old when he died April 7, 2017.

Bracebridge OPP said they were responding to a call for a man and child who’d been thrown into the river after their boat capsized. When police located the man, they were told the boy couldn’t be found and had been swept away.

A search led them to find that Thomas had gone over the falls. Pulled from the icy water, he was given CPR and rushed to hospital, but he died soon after.

Thomas Rancourt, 8, drowned in the Muskoka River after a canoe, allegedly operated by an Etobicoke man who was impaired, overturned April 7, 2017. (Facebook)

Sillars — who is boyfriend to the boy’s mother — is charged with impaired operation of a vessel causing death, operating a vessel with a blood-alcohol level over 80 milligrams causing death, criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation causing death.

Jamie Rancourt says his son didn’t know how to swim and was allegedly wearing a lifejacket too small for his size. He should never have been on the water, he insists, especially in the frigid temperatures of early April.

“The school buses were cancelled that day because of the ice,” says his angry dad. “I’m in North Bay. I got a message that Thomas fell over the falls and he’s not breathing on his own. I got there.”

“It was too late.”

According to the Canadian Red Cross, more than 40% of recreational boating deaths are alcohol-related. The Canadian Safe Boating Council (CSBC) says there were at least 375 deaths in suspected or confirmed cases involving alcohol and unpowered vessels such as canoes and rafts in Canada from 1991 to 2010.

Impaired boating is treated under the law like impaired driving. Last year, though, the federal government was actually considering exempting drunk paddlers as they revamped impaired laws in advance of legalizing marijuana. The proposal was to remove the word “vessels” from the Criminal Code and replace it with “motorized vessels,” leaving those drinking while boating under their own steam untouchable by the law.

Thomas’s tragedy was one of the examples used to convince the MPs to reverse course.

“It just wrecked me when I heard they were trying to remove it,” says the boy’s father. “Here I’m trying to get justice for my son and they’re trying to reverse the laws.”

Thomas Rancourt, 8, drowned in the Muskoka River after a canoe, allegedly operated by an Etobicoke man who was impaired, overturned April 7, 2017. Angry family are demanding “Justice for Thomas.” (Facebook)

The tragedy has left him gutted to the core. Rancourt had just seen Thomas over March break. He never imagined he would never see him again.

“Every single morning I wake up to relive this nightmare. Every morning and whenever I’m alone, I cry and I cry, you would never know it but I’m broken,” he says.

“My son was strong, he was smart, he was the first on the playground to stand up to bullies. He was the sunshine in anybody’s darkest day. He’d just light up a room.”

He and other family members have attended each court appearance wearing “Justice for Thomas” shirts. They plan to be at every day of the trial — even though it was moved from Bracebridge to Oshawa for scheduling reasons.

“I want to make sure justice is served. And I want to hear what happened that day,” Rancourt says.

The grieving father is also hoping his story reinforces the dangers of drunk boating — even if the details in this case are so unique.

“Smarten up,” he says to those who still don’t understand how much their judgment is impaired by alcohol. “I know you think you have control, but you don’t. We all have drinks, we’ve got our kids running around, but there’s a line you don’t cross.”

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Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies