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Friday, February 20, 2015

Death Stalking in Winter

"You've got this irreversibility problem because the child was never going to get that door back open. And then you have the time -- it is four a.m. -- not recess during school."
Gordon Giesbrecht, hypothermia expert, professor, University of Manitoba
THE CANADIAN PRESS    Elijah, 3, is shown in a building lobby in this undated handout photo.
It happens without fail, every winter somewhere in Canada. And, one suspects elsewhere in the world where winter weather is harsh and children's curiosity knows no bounds. Yet another child has died as a result of exposure to the miserable cold of winter. No, he wasn't abandoned to his fate, he was just a precocious little boy who evidently woke from a sound sleep and decided he would treat night like day and do some exploring.

All the more attractive, perhaps, because no one was about to ask what he was doing, where he was going, and to irritatingly -- as adults are wont to do -- interfere with his plan, if he indeed had a plan -- other than to do what he had done countless times before while being ushered back and forth by his mother, his father, his grandparents, his aunts. A tiny boy whom no one really suspected could be able to unlock a door. Yet he made his way through three doors, to reach his presumed goal, the out-of-doors.

Wearing a little shirt and a diaper. This has been a brutally cold February, even in Toronto. And Elijah March, who was loved and coddled and cared so carefully for to ensure that no harm would ever come to the little fellow, woke at four in the morning, took himself out of bed, out of his grandparents' apartment, to finally exit the building and freely walk about unencumbered by pestering adults, on the outside of the low-rise building. He had taken the caution of pulling on his winter boots.

At four in the morning on Wednesday, the temperature was a miserable minus-20 Celsius, and colder even than that, taking into account the windchill factor. Sometimes young children seem almost oblivious to the cold, but it wouldn't have taken long for little Elijah to feel very uncomfortable indeed. But the option of re-entering the building he had just exited wasn't open to him, since that outer door clicks firmly shut and cannot be opened from the exterior.

"I have a three-year-old. What happened here is unbelievably sad. I just think about that child being outside. Alone. And it being dark, and it is so cold and he was three -- and he comes out -- and he can't get back in the building, because the door here locks behind you. All he would want was his Mom and Dad. I always see him with his family. I have never seen that boy alone", said a neighbour, mournfully.

Video thumbnail for Toronto boy dies after wandering out into the cold
National Post: Elijah March :Toronto Police / The Canadian Press

When his grandparents awoke at 7:30 a.m. it was to discover that their tiny grandson was nowhere to be seen. They looked everywhere. Police were alerted and over 100 units including mounted police and helicopters engaged in the frantic search for the little boy. By that time he had already been out, alone, in the frigid cold for well over three hours. It took three more hours before his little body was discovered, with no vital signs, by two of the dozens of community members who also were out searching for the child.
"I think every Torontonian will feel the loss. You see the picture of that beautiful little boy. And the smile. And the video of the child going out into the cold at 4 o'clock in the morning. It really is a tragic set of circumstances."
"And it will remind all of us to go home and hug our kids a little bit more. I think we all will grieve for that child and for their family and for their community for its loss."
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair 

Freezing to death in the cold and the snow doesn't happen only to children. The very same day, a 46-year-old man who had been buried for days just metres from the door of his trailer home; inadequately dressed and covered in snow from a storm, in temperatures that dipped to -30C in Moncton, New Brunswick, where his body was discovered by his half-brother.

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