Police and firefighters who went into the chilly waters of Lake Ontario on the weekend were unable to save the life of a young man.
The victim has been identified by friends and his former school as A. J. Blugerman, a student at Bayview Glen private school who was lauded in tributes for his sense of humour and his "outgoing nature."
The 16-year-old was strapped into an SUV that crashed Friday into the Keating Channel, near the base of the Don River. Four friends were able to escape but he could not.
"Unfortunately, one youth was caught inside," Sergeant Ross Lindsay, of the police marine unit, said Sunday.
Two patrol officers from 51 Division were among the first on the scene and, as the surviving teens panicked, the officers plunged into the five-degree water in a frantic attempt to save the young man. Their rescue efforts were joined by firefighters and, later, a member of the marine unit with a dry suit.
None of them was able to save the teen. He was recovered 40 minutes after the crash and Sgt. Lindsay said first responders tried to revive him. It was too late – he was pronounced dead in hospital.
Through the weekend there was a growing wave of tributes to Mr. Blugerman, whose online presence shows his support for marriage equality, his love for dubstep music and his support of the New England Patriots football team.
"He will always be remembered for his contagious smile and laughter, and his outgoing nature," read one tribute, a series of photos that showed him playing with friends, making a snow angel and splitting wood in winter. "He touched the lives of all who knew him."
Another tribute was posted at the website of St. Michael's College School, which Mr. Blugerman attended through the end of Grade 10.
"The death of any young person is always tragic and it is even more poignant when it is someone close to your own community," wrote president and principal Terence Sheridan. "AJ was a kind and well-respected young man."
Police said the car, an Acura MDX, went off the road as it was being driven eastbound on the Lakeshore by a 17-year-old male. It ended up in a stretch of water known as the Keating Channel, which connects the Don River with the open water of the Toronto harbour.
Vicky White, a grade 11 student at Bayview Glen was in the same gym class as AJ and said "he was very open. He could become one of your best friends easily."
She said AJ loved to help others, and recently went on a trip to Costa Rica arranged through the school, where students helped to build new schools for poor children. AJ's Facebook profile photo shows him smiling, with his arm around one of the kids he met on the trip. "He would always put a smile on your face whenever he could," she said.
He was also an athlete, she added, and a particularly good hockey player. "We would always cheer on each other," Vicki said. "He was just a great person to know."
Reports from Ann Hui.