‘My son didn't make it back’: Mississauga teen drowns in Muskoka

A family camping trip in Muskoka this weekend ended in tragedy.

The family of 18-year-old Noel Caoile Jr. said the Mississauga, Ont. teenager drowned while swimming in the Muskoka River on Saturday evening.

"We called for help because my brother was yelling, help help I can't breathe, I can't breathe," said Caoile Jr.'s brother Neil.

The family told CTV News that Noel Jr. began struggling in the water and yelling for help shortly after 6 p.m. That's when Neil, who was near the dock urged anyone nearby to save his brother, adding he's not an experienced swimmer.

"There was this one guy who tried to do canoeing," said Neil. "I don't know where my brother went. He just went down."

Neil said Noel wasn't visible on the surface because of the murky water.

According to the OPP, officers responded to reports of a swimmer in distress on the south branch of the Muskoka River off of Golden Beach Road at around 7:00 p.m. on Saturday.

Both police and other crews began their search for the 18-year-old, but their efforts were unsuccessful.

"They were not able to locate the male party's remains as darkness fell," said Const. Adrian Woods of the OPP marine unit.

Shortly before 10 Sunday morning, police said divers recovered the body.

On Monday afternoon, provincial police confirmed the identity of the body recovered to be Noel Caoile Jr.

"My son didn't make it back," said Noel Caoile Sr. on Sunday.

This drowning is the latest in a tragic tale of events throughout the start of summer 2021.

Deaths connected to drownings have been reported so far this year, in Orillia, Port Sydney, Georgian Bay Township, and Wasaga Beach.

"It's heartbreaking news," said Shannon Scully-Pratt, a swimming and water safety program representative with the Canadian Red Cross. "Every drowning that we hear about is heartbreaking, and no one ever suspects that they are going to be a drowning victim."

According to the Lifesaving Society, over 400 Canadians die in preventable water-related incidents every year.

Scully-Pratt noted that knowing the water is important before entering it.

"My first suggestion is always to speak with the locals from the area. They know the waterways the best," said Scully-Pratt. "They understand when there's turnovers, when there's high winds, when there's drop-off points. If areas of water can be more dangerous than others, and if things have changed over the winter season because you often have a lot of logs and underwater movement that take place, that can be very dangerous, especially if you're diving or jumping into the water."

The Caoile family said they were staying at the Whispering Pines Campground at Santa's Village, across the street from where they said Noel was swimming.

CTV News reached out to Santa's Village about the incident and the dock's safety precautions, and it responded with a written statement.

"There was a ring buoy available at the dock. We have life jackets available for guest use upon request," said Jaime Watson of Santa's Village, adding, "Our thoughts are with the family at this very difficult time."

The Caoile family said they wish there were more signs on the dock warning swimmers of the potential dangers of the river.

The family has created a GoFundMe in Noel Jr.'s name to help cover funeral expenses.