Stay off the ice: Sister of Pouch Cove drowning victim urges people to be cautious

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Stay off the ice: Sister of Pouch Cove drowning victim urges people to be cautious

It's been 16 years since the day Sarah Elliott saw her brother lifeless in the water behind her parents' home in Pouch Cove.

Jesse Elliott's 18-year-old body was pulled from the water that day, along with two other boys — Adam Wall and A.J. Sullivan.

The ice rolled out within 36 hours, but the feeling of senseless loss remains to this day.

"When people see the ice, there are a lot of people that think back to that tragedy," Elliott said. "I don't need to see the ice to be reminded of that."

It was March 8, 2001.

Sarah Elliott was working in the city when she got a phone call saying some boys were trapped on the ice. She was told one was her brother.

She rushed home to find a rescue mission in limbo.

Two boys went into the water to rescue the third — a friend who had gotten too close and was swept away by moving ice.

Local residents tried to save all three boys, extending them a ladder and some rope. Jesse ended up with a rope around his arm, but couldn't stave off the violent waves as he tried to save himself and his friends.

He was swept away.

"Whether he uncoiled the rope from his arm, or whatever he did, he knew he was going," Sarah said of her brother. "That was basically the end — the last wave. They never surfaced again after."

The next day, Elliott sat on an old church pew overlooking the water in her parents' yard and made a ghastly discovery.

"I went down to, I guess, have a moment," she said. "And there he was."

She still remembers her father's voice as he ran from the house and saw his son. She recalls how firefighters held him back as he tried to get in the water with his boy.

Life was never the same after that.

Tragedy still hurts, but needs repeating

This past week, sea ice packed many of the sheltered coves around the Avalon Peninsula — including Pouch Cove.

Photos and videos on social media show people playing on ice pans in the region, despite the inherent danger and previous deaths.

On Saturday night, Elliott typed a heartfelt warning to friends and strangers on Facebook to stay off the ice.

"I only ask when you are taking in the breathtaking beauty of nature, the mesmerizing sight of a seemingly frozen ocean, please respect that nature is more powerful than we could ever be," she wrote.

By Sunday afternoon, the post had racked up more than 600 shares.

"I'm very, very heartfelt in knowing that his memory lives on," she said. "I think that's what all this is about — to remind people … It's beautiful, but it's too dangerous."

Harnessing the good, never forgetting the bad

​Sarah and Jesse Elliott's parents still live in the same house, overlooking the same water where their son lost his life.

The family wears the tragedy every day, Sarah said. They never try to forget it, or downplay their loss.

Instead, they remember the best of their son and brother, including his intelligence and innovation; he once configured the family's computer so his voice was heard when the machine booted up.

They remember his kindness and generosity, how he helped a young man with disabilities learn to write his own name.

They celebrate his birthday each year, talk about current things that would make him laugh and imagine who he would be today as a 35-year-old man.

But for all the good, there will always be the pain of March 8, 2001.

"I do remember so much of that evening," Elliott said, her voice trailing off as she diverted her teary, green eyes to the side. 

"I hope nobody ever has to go through that again."