A Notre-Dame college student drowns in Florida

The body of William Zhang, a 17-year-old Montreal student who was participating in a swimming camp at Notre-Dame College in Florida, was found late Wednesday by authorities in Pinellas County, on the state’s west coast. .

Swimmers at the swim camp were exercising in the Gulf of Mexico, but William Zhang “did not return to shore at the end of the exercises,” the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Wednesday .

Local authorities received an emergency 911 call around 9 a.m. Wednesday morning reporting that a swimmer had been swept off the coast of the Municipality of Indian Shores. A search was undertaken and “at approximately 5:23 p.m. (William) Zhang was located and pronounced dead.”

“We have deployed additional aid resources and are in close communication with local authorities in Tampa Bay to try to better understand what happened,” the private college said by email Thursday.

The team’s head coach, Kyla Rollinson, did not respond to our requests for an interview.

“Our coaches (…) will not respond to your request, since they are not the official spokespersons for the College. We have no further comment at this time,” indicated the College’s communications director, Anne Desaulniers, late Thursday afternoon.

Mme Rollinson is a coach recognized by Triathlon Québec. She was also supposed to accompany some of her athletes to a triathlon in Miami this Friday, but will not be present, the federation said.

The two events have no connection. William Zhang was not a member of Triathlon Québec, and the camp in which he participated was not recognized by this federation.

“It’s a tragedy, my mother’s heart is bleeding,” nevertheless reacted the general director of Triathlon Québec, Marie-Ève ​​Sullivan, in a telephone interview on Thursday.

Mme Rollinson “is a well-recognized trainer for several years, with whom we have done many projects, who is always very professional”, underlined Mme Sullivan.

“We know her well, so it’s a tragedy on that side too because it’s really the worst thing a coach can experience, to lose an athlete. »

School trip

Neither William Zhang, nor the middle school swimming club, nor Mme Rollinson are not registered with the Quebec Swimming Federation.

In the specific case of coaches recognized by Triathlon Québec, they will be recognized by the Swimming Federation for certain functions, such as young people’s swimming clubs, local competitions and training of masters (adults), from next September, said the general director of this federation, Francis Ménard, on Thursday.

But as for other high school swim club coaches, the Federation is unable to verify their qualifications because “probably more than 95%” of these clubs do not register with it, Ms. .Ménard.

Notre-Dame College is a member of the Quebec Student Sports Network (RSEQ), but “it is the responsibility of the schools” to verify that their coaches have the required qualifications, indicates the CEO of the Network, Gustave Roel.

As for the Florida camp itself, “it’s really not under our jurisdiction” since the RSEQ “does not manage open water swimming,” Mr. Roel said in a telephone interview. “It’s really an outing that the college has given itself, to go outside the country. »

This “free and non-compulsory” school trip having taken place outside Quebec, “the Regulations on safety in public baths establishing in particular the minimum standards for beach surveillance, including the minimum skills required of physical education teachers, does not apply,” the Ministry of Education also informed by email.

“It’s a tragic event. All our thoughts are with the family and loved ones of the young swimmer,” declared the Minister responsible for Sport, Recreation and the Outdoors, Isabelle Charest.

“Coaches said they checked for rip currents or hazards before letting swimmers enter the water,” the sheriff’s office said, without elaborating.

Mme Rollinson has been head coach of the Notre Dame college swim team since September 2021, her LinkedIn page says. She is also a triathlon coach at Côte Saint-Luc Aquatique (CSLA).

“Our energies are currently mobilized to provide the necessary support to the entire educational community of Collège Notre-Dame,” indicated the director of communications of the establishment.

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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