Body of Edmonton teen recovered from pond in Whitecourt, Alberta

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Hassan Mohamed, 14, had been missing in water since Sunday afternoon

The body of an Edmonton teenager missing in a pond in Whitecourt, Alta., since Sunday has been recovered.

Volunteer rescue divers recovered the body of Hassan Mohamed, 14, around 10:20 a.m. Tuesday, an RCMP spokesperson said.

RCMP had been called to the Rotary Park Outdoor Waterpark just before 4 p.m. Sunday after a “child swimmer” had gone missing, police said in a news release the same day.

The waterpark is adjacent to the park’s pond.

RCMP initially said the missing swimmer had been in the water with adults.

But Ahmed Shukri, a longtime neighbour and friend of the teen’s family, said Hassan fell into the pond by accident.

RCMP, along with fire and emergency services, searched the pond on Sunday and Monday.

Hassan’s father, Abdi Ahmed, said the last three days have been hard on everyone, especially Hassan’s twin brother.

“It’s very tough for us,” Ahmed told CBC News on Tuesday morning.

“We have to be strong right now.”

Ahmed said his son, who attended John D. Bracco Junior High School in northeast Edmonton, was the eldest of eight children.

He was kind and responsible, often helping his parents, his father said.

Multi-day search

Edmontonian Kaitlin Blake, who was staying at a campground near Mayerthorpe on the weekend, was one of many volunteer swimmers who searched the pond for Hassan.

On Sunday afternoon, she heard screams for help. She grabbed a pair of goggles and ran into the pond, fully clothed.

“The first thing that goes through my mind, as a mom, is, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to get my child out,'” Blake said.

She said she searched for more than half an hour but it was hard to see in the murky water. A fountain in the pond was running until someone turned it off, she added.

Blake said search and rescue personnel arrived and searched for the missing teen, first with boats and paddles, then a net.

Volunteer dive team

Cpl. Michael Hibbs with Whitecourt RCMP said the first day of the search ended just after midnight Sunday.

Efforts restarted Monday around 8 a.m. and continued until around 7 p.m., when personnel cleared the pond to allow sediment to settle.

Tuesday morning was the earliest the volunteer dive teams could arrive, Hibbs said.

Audrey Shillabeer, an administrative volunteer with Underwater Search Team, said in an email the team’s thoughts are with the teen’s family and communities.

She said the team had just spent three days at Spray Lakes in southwestern Alberta when it was called to Whitecourt, with only enough time between to refit and clean equipment. The team was later called to Peace River.

“To deploy takes time, and again, as emergency volunteers, they move as quickly as they are able,” Shillabeer said.

The search team is not funded and in most cases depends heavily on the resources of its volunteers, she said.

Shukri, a long-time neighbour of the family, said the area is an attraction that draws the Somali community from Edmonton.

“I’m sure we are all feeling that this should have been … this was preventable, especially knowing that there’s young kids who are coming out here.”

He said there should be more safety measures in place.

“We are saying this should be a warning.”

In a news release Tuesday morning, issued before the body was recovered, the Town of Whitecourt expressed condolences to the teen’s family “during this tragic and difficult time.”

The release said Rotary Park remains closed and access points to the facility are barricaded.

According to the Lifesaving Society, Alberta and Northwest Territories Branch, the province sees an average of 30 fatal drownings each year, and about 160 non-fatal emergency department visits.

Whitecourt is about 180 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

With files from Madeleine Cummings and Travis McEwan

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