'He was a peacemaker:' 13-year-old drowning victim's family left with many questions

It was a traumatic way for Sylvano Tshiunza Sr. to wake up on Saturday, as police officers appeared outside the door of his home in Laval.

“The police banged on the door, I asked my wife what’s going on and she said ‘I don’t understand, there are police out there,’” he said.

The officers had come to take him to the hospital where his son, Sylvano Tshiunza Jr., had been pronounced dead — the first Quebec drowning death in a swimming pool so far this year. The family emigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Canada in 2005 and the 13-year-old was born three years later.

“He was a surprise,” his father recalled.

The younger Tshiunza and his brother Schadrac were both spending the night with a cousin who lived in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve on Friday. It isn’t clear how or why Tshiunza — who went by Junior — ended up in the swimming pool. He did not know how to swim.

“You can’t really question what’s in the mind of a teenager,” Schadrac Tshiunza, his older brother, said. “Because teenagers always think that this is their time to live and their time to have fun.”

His older brother said the cousin woke him up after Junior had entered the pool and said he jumped the pool fence and dove to the bottom three times in an effort to save him.

“I tried to pull him up so I could grab him by his legs… and I couldn’t do it,” he said.

He said he called 911 from a nearby pay phone.

The family has started a GoFundMe site to defray the costs of the funeral.

“He was a peacemaker,” his father said. “He was a loving son. A very down-to-earth son.”

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