A 1-year-old baby, closely followed by the Montérégie-Est Youth Protection Agency (DPJ), drowned at his mother’s home in Sorel-Tracy last week. Her father, who had just lost custody of the little girl, blames the DPJ and believes the death could have been avoided.
Posted at 5:00 am
Little Ophelia* drowned on March 24 in an inflatable spa installed in the basement, her head submerged in 15 cm of water.
“I don’t want my daughter’s death to be called a trivial incident,” says her father, referring to Monsieur Amour, the little deceased’s favorite stuffed animal.
As the victim’s brothers are currently under the protection of the DPJ, we are unable to release any information that would allow the family to be identified.
The baby’s mother, in her 30s, has sole custody of four children from different fathers, ranging in age from 2 months to 8 years, the father says.
She is followed by the DPJ.
He himself has a file with the DPJ, he admits. Because of his excessive cannabis use and parental conflicts between his mother and him, he lost custody of the little one in early February, he says from the start. He initially resisted giving him the child and asked the DPJ to put Ophelia in foster care, he says. He feared for his safety. But she was handed over to her full-time mother.
Drowned in a spa
Ophélie went into respiratory failure while being transported to the hospital. The doctor in charge of the little girl told the overwhelmed father that there was not much more that could be done to save her, he continues.
No adult witnessed the drowning, which occurred in the basement of a family home. An accidental death, he was told.
According to our police information, the little one would have been placed in front of the television with her 2-year-old brother on the morning of the accident.
The mother would have left her unattended for at least 20 minutes. She would have gone upstairs with her other child, a 2 month old infant.
The children’s playroom is in the basement. In the next room, the laundry room, is the spa. The two basement floors are separated by a door with hooks.
When the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) was called to the scene shortly after 11 a.m., it was already too late. The mother tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate the baby through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
According to our information, the agents found a chair next to the spa that may have allowed children access. According to their observations, the hook had been torn off. The victim’s brother was at the spa at the time of the sad discovery.
A terrible accident, according to the mother
“It was a terrible accident, it’s not negligence,” said the mother The press.
The DPJ deemed the facilities safe for children when they visited, she said.
She said she was a good mother and despite the exhaustion of being a single parent, she did her best. She was forced to care for her children alone for a few weeks while taking medication for depression.
I had mentioned to the DPJ that I found this cumbersome. My advisor didn’t listen to me. I was exhausted. I told them that I was about to put the little one in foster care, that taking care of the four of them alone would be too much for me.
Her granddaughter missed her father, with whom she had previously spent every other week. She started banging her head against the walls and said, “I miss dad,” said the mother. “I had to deal with that. I had a lot on my shoulders. »
According to her version of events, she left her daughter and son in the basement before the show master key. She went to the bathroom to feed her other child, 2 months old, and to get the older one ready for school.
“I’ve been doing this for months. I never thought my son could pull the hook and go into the spa room. It was he who pulled the hook. »
“There should be an even deeper investigation rather than saying it’s just an accident. I have few answers, and my father’s heart needs them,” says the bereaved.
In the last few days, the revolt has taken over the sadness in him.
The drowning is accidental, but to me it’s negligence. I don’t see it any differently.
The 30-year-old is in the bedroom of his Sorel accommodation, which has toys, dolls and children’s shoes lying around, next to a giant princess castle.
The kitchen counters are littered with lighters, ash, and huge battered bongs. In the house of the father, who sits down in a rocking chair with a shaky arm, there is a strong smell of cannabis and cigarettes.
By the start of winter, he explains, the mom installed her inflatable spa indoors. He considered the whole thing dangerous and expressed his fears to the DPJ.
Was the cover used to keep children out of the spa permanently attached to the structure? How can a child pull the hook off a door so easily? Why install the spa next to the children’s playroom? How long were the kids downstairs alone?
These questions torment the father.
“If that’s considered safe for the DPJ, I don’t know what world we’re going into. The flags were raised to say it was a mother in misery. »
“It would be a very unfortunate accident and therefore a family tragedy,” said the CISSS de la Montérégie-Est, which does media relations for the DPJ. “A clear distinction must be made between negligence and an accident. The mere fact that a parent is acting alone cannot in itself be a reason to propose the removal of children,” the organization said simply in an email sent to The press.
“For me, a spa with no cover and just a hook is not enough to protect children. The DPJ should have done something,” the father replied.
“They took her away from me to protect her, but she died there, in front of her 2-year-old brother,” he says, his voice hoarse and his eyes foggy.
*Fictional first names