Family and friends are mourning the death of a 16-year-old boy who drowned in the Moose Jaw River Friday afternoon.
Getu Mamo was playing with some friends on the banks of the Moose Jaw River in Wakamow Valley Park that afternoon when the friends noticed Mamo was in the water and not resurfacing, according to Jeremy MacDonald, Mamo's youth pastor at the Church of God in Moose Jaw.
"One of the girls came over to try and pull him out. But she's treading water … and she's not a strong swimmer," MacDonald said.
"One moment of panic and that was it."
Moose Jaw Police, Fire and EMS were called at about 5:30 p.m. CST and eventually pulled Mamo from the river. He was transported to hospital in Regina. MacDonald said Mamo died that day.
It's not clear exactly how Mamo got into the water and whether he became trapped under water or just panicked, MacDonald said, adding that Mamo could swim.
"There's no current if he was just treading water, and there's no reason for him to go under."
MacDonald said Mamo, along with his parents and younger sisters, moved to Moose Jaw as Ethiopian refugees about three years ago.
Since that time, MacDonald met regularly with Mamo for weekly bible study sessions. They also travelled to Cypress Hills as part of a group youth retreat. MacDonald baptized Mamo this past March.
MacDonald described Mamo as kind, athletic and quiet. MacDonald said Mamo put others first and was diligent, respectful and sincere in his faith.
"We are still kind of in disbelief. I just baptized him a couple of months ago," MacDonald said.
It's just inconceivable that this could happen. - Jeremy MacDonald
MacDonald was asked to come to the hospital in Regina and help support Mamo's parents, Moma Sehlamariam and Tigist Melkamu, as they grieved for their son Friday. MacDonald said Mamo's death has been the most difficult thing he's experienced during his time in the ministry.
"His family, they come from Ethiopia. They move heaven and earth so they can come here and give a better life for their children, so it's just inconceivable that this could happen," MacDonald said.
Members of Mamo's church have started a GoFundMe page to raise money to pay for his funeral.
MacDonald is also concerned for the children that were with Mamo when he drowned.
"We are definitely fearing for these three kids. They're 12 and 13 years old, and they're having to live through this trauma now."
Red Cross water safety week
Mamo's drowning happened on June 6, one day into a week-long Canadian Red Cross water safety campaign.
According to Red Cross manager of injury prevention Lesley-Anne Morley, about 400 people drown each year in Canada.
"People think drowning is going to be a loud noisy event, but drowning is often silent."
She said people need to be aware of their own abilities when swimming and always swim with friends.
People should also always have a life jacket available and know the area they are swimming in, Morley said.
Water safety week runs from June 5 to June 12.