After his tragic death in 2009, James Delorey's legacy is helping keep others safe

Ten years after losing her son, Veronica Fraser says it feels good to know lessons learned from his death have helped save other lives.

Seven-year-old James Delorey, who had autism, wandered away from his home in South Bar, Cape Breton, on the afternoon of Dec. 5, 2009, just before the first snowfall of the year.

He was found two days later, huddled in thick brush and snow about a kilometre from his home. Unconscious and suffering from severe hypothermia, he died early the next day in hospital.

Fraser recalls the helplessness she felt during the search.

"For those two days, there was so much hope that he was going to come back," she said Thursday. "And seeing so many people coming together ... I thought for sure he was going to be found."

Cape Breton Regional Police
Cape Breton Regional Police

Search-and-rescue crews from around the province and hundreds of community volunteers took part in the search.

"It was very heartbreaking, especially when the first night came and he wasn't back yet," said Fraser.

Following the boy's death, Cape Breton Search and Rescue launched Project Lifesaver, a program that uses locator bracelets to help find missing people with autism or Alzheimer's disease.

"To bring about awareness like this, there usually is a tragedy that happens first," said Fraser. "But it really makes me feel good that there are lives that are going to be saved because of it."

She said emergency responders have learned that people with autism or Alzheimer's may not react to searchers in a typical way.

Fraser believes that had James been wearing a locator bracelet, the outcome would have been very different.

'James saved her'

She used the example of a girl who lived in mainland Nova Scotia who had autism and was at risk of wandering away.

"She got the bracelet because of James ... and she went missing two weeks later in a very heavily wooded area ... and she was found in under half an hour, so James saved her," said Fraser.


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