Funeral home offers to fund service for drowning victim
A local funeral home has offered to pay for the memorial service of Olisadike "Oli" Okoye, the nine-year-old boy who died Tuesday after falling into the frigid waters of the Rideau River near Strathcona Park.
All funeral expenses will be covered by McGarry Family Chapels. The family of Okoye had previously asked the public to donate funds to help pay for a funeral.
Okoye's death has left his family and friends reeling. They are remembering him as a fun-loving boy who loved to be outside.
"He usually played with my little brothers," said neighbour Jamal Ali. "He plays in the park. He was a fun kid."
A day after Okoye's tragic death, the message, "Rest in peace O.J. You will never be forgotten," was etched on a wall in the apartment building where he lived with his family.
"O.J." was one of Okoye's nicknames.
"He was a good person," said 11-year-old Leslie Mwakio, a friend of Okoye. "I was very shocked and sad."
Mwakio said Okoye loved to play soccer—his favourite sport—with his many friends.
"He was a happy child," Mwakio said.
Okoye and another boy were playing near the icy edge of the Rideau River when Okoye slipped and fell in at about 2 p.m.
A person walking by with their dog called 9-1-1, said fire service spokesman Marc Messier.
Emergency crews rushed to the scene and a firefighter spotted Okoye floating 800 metres downstream near Strathcona Park. The firefighter waded into the water and brought Okoye to shore, said Messier.
He had no vital signs.
"We started CPR immediately on him until paramedics arrived. Then we loaded him up and continued treatment until we got to CHEO," said Messier.
Messier estimated the boy had been in the water about 10 to 15 minutes before he was rescued.
Okoye was pronounced dead about 50 minutes later at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.
He lived with his family in an Ottawa Community Housing apartment building on Wiggins Private, just a short distance to the edge of the river.
The death came just one day before the regional drowning prevention committee was set to release drowning prevention information on Wednesday, said paramedic spokesman J.P. Trottier, who sits on the committee.
"If there's any advice we can give to parents or adults or dog walkers ... just stay away from any waterways—be it ponds, lakes, rivers—stay completely away from them and make sure your pets are away from them as well," said Trottier.
Okoye's death has made area parents more cautious about letting their children play near the water.
"It's horrific. It's unimaginable what the parents must be going through," said parent Robert Sparling.
The boy's family is asking for help from the public to pay for his funeral. Donations can be made at Scotiabank under the name of his father, Obiora Okoye. The account number is 717796855687.
With reports from CTV Ottawa's Michael O'Byrne and Stefan Keyes