A family is mourning the death of a toddler who drowned when he was found face down in a backyard swimming pool at a daycare he was visiting.

Two-year-old Jérémie Audette was pulled from a backyard swimming pool without vital signs in Orleans just before 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Firefighters were first on the scene and said CPR was already being administered on the boy. The toddler was rushed to hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

The child's distraught uncle arrived at the scene Wednesday, clutching his nephew's photo in his hands.

"He's a kid. The best little kid, you know. He's my godchild, and he's gone now," Marc Potvin told CTV Ottawa through tears.

"Jérémie was a nice little boy, very, very small little guy – always laughing, always joyful."

Play date gone wrong

Jérémie's babysitter brought him to the home on Rougemount Crescent for a regular organized play date Monday morning. Several caregivers and their children were at the backyard pool when the drowning occurred.

It remains unclear how many children were at the home, and who was directly supervising the swimming pool.

"There's about three or four daycares in the area and they meet up just to have fun with the other moms and kids in the area to do different activities," said neighbour Brenda Hislop.

The above-ground pool is fenced and gated in. The owner of the house has been caring for children for years. Although she was not Jérémie's care provider, the drowning is still hitting her hard.

"I went over and sat on the stairs with her and the police had come and she's in shock," said Hislop.

Less than 30 seconds to drown

Water safety experts say it takes less than 30 seconds for a child to drown.

So far in Ontario, 75 people have drowned this year; six of those were toddlers who drowned in backyard pools. Last year, there were 64 drownings across the province.

In Quebec, there have been 59 drownings this year, compared to 38 the year before.

The Lifesaving Society says parents and caregivers need to especially pay attention to toddlers.

"They won't look like a typical non-swimmer who is flailing their arms, calling out for help, certainly if they're under the age of three," said Nathalie Valliers, of the Lifesaving Society.

It's not good enough to be near children when they're in the water. Rather, young kids need to be accompanied by someone at all times, she said.

"Not only sitting on the side of the pool, not only sunbathing next to the pool, but being in the water certainly with young children is very important."

Other water safety tips include:

  • wearing a lifejacket;
  • giving your child swimming lessons;
  • being wary of hazards in the water;
  • obstructing access to pools that aren't in use.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Karen Soloman and John Hua