‘We were all screaming,’ stepfather says of snowmobile crash that killed two boys
Katherine DeClerq, CTV News Toronto
Published Tuesday, March 5, 2019 12:59PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, March 5, 2019 8:11PM EST
A pair of cousins who died after their snowmobile crashed through the ice on Lake Muskoka on Monday are being remembered by family as athletic and fun-loving kids.
Ontario Provincial Police said five people were riding on the lake using three snowmobiles shortly after midnight when the ice surface broke, plunging them under the surface.
Three people, a 31-year-old Bracebridge man, a 37-year-old Gravenhurst man, and a 14-year-old, also from Gravenhurst, managed to swim back to shore safely.
Alex Martin, 15, and Mitchell Paris, 11, were pulled from the water by search and rescue teams but later died in hospital.
The teenagers were on a family outing when the accident happened.
“It happened so fast, I can’t even explain all of it,” said Alex’s stepfather, who did not want to provide his name to CTV News Toronto. “All I know is we came to a stop, we were getting ready to turn around, and as we went to turn around it all broke up from under of us.”
“All of a sudden we were all screaming for one another, trying to swim to shore.”
He said that Mitchell and Alex were sharing a snowmobile at the time of the incident.
“I could not find my son. I was looking,” he said. “If I could give my own life for my son’s, then I would. I’d rather it be me than him.”
Alex’s father, Nick Martin, said that police showed up at his door around 5 a.m. with the news.
“As soon as I heard my son was dead, that was it,” Nick Martin said. “I couldn’t hear anything else.”
Alex is described by his aunt as a bright, funny and athletic teenager. His family said he loved sports, especially basketball.
“It’s heartbreaking to know I won’t see him again,” Nicole Martin said. “To know these kids have lost their lives in a senseless way … it’s hard to deal with this.”
Mitchell’s mother told CTV News Toronto that she is too heartbroken to speak on camera, but did say that her son was beautiful and fun-loving.
A family friend of the Paris family said that Mitchell was “always smiling.
“(He was) always happy, always ready to help out no matter what. He was just a good kid all the way around,” Katelyn Good said.
The boys attended Bracebridge Public School and Gravenhurst High School, respectively.
Principals at both schools sent out letters to staff, students and their families on Tuesday, explaining the loss of two Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) students.
The flags at both schools were also be lowered.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of two of our students. Special counselling services have been available at the schools these students attended and will continue to be available throughout the week and longer, if needed,” a statement from the TLDSB reads.
“A letter sent home to parents at the affected schools encourages open discussion with children about feelings stressing that any reaction to the death of a peer is normal in the grief process. Our hearts go out to all those affected by this tragedy."
Police described the incident to CTV News Barrie as a “profound tragedy” that has affected the small community.
The snowmobiles reportedly crashed in a narrow area of the lake that is known to have a fast current. Police said that the rapid current often creates thin ice in the area.
There is a trail meant for sledders, which runs across the land nearby, but it’s not known if the group knew about it.
The OPP’s search and recovery unit recovered the sleds on Monday.
Warning markers were set up in the narrow portions of the lake to let other sledders know of the dangerous condition.
It’s not known what kind of safety gear the victims were wearing, if at all.
With files from CTV News Barrie and CTV News Toronto's Tracy Tong