News

Boy, 3, dies after wandering into cold

By Shawn Jeffords, Toronto Sun

Click here to post condolences in honour of Elijah March

TORONTO — A three-year-old boy died after wandering from his grandmother’s North York apartment into the extreme cold Thursday morning.

Police issued a statement around 2 p.m. confirming Elijah Marsh died after being out in the cold weather with little clothing for six hours.

This tragic ending comes following a massive hunt for the boy and hours of work at North York General Hospital to save his life after he was found with no vital signs. It all left neighbours — and much of the city — in mourning, trying to understand what happened.

Rita, who came to drop off flowers at a growing memorial outside of the Neptune Dr. apartment, was emotional.

“What this family is going through,” she said through tears late Thursday. “The suffering. It’s unreal.”

“I just hope that the family has support and that people are not judgmental. Things happen. It’s just sad.”

Police were called about Elijah’s disappearance around 7:30 a.m. But security footage from the complex revealed that the boy had left the building around 4 a.m., clad in just a T-shirt, pull-up diapers and a pair of boots.

Police mobilized over 100 units, including their canine unit, mounted unit and officers from every division in the city, to help with the search. Volunteers from across the GTA converged on the Bathurst St. and Hwy. 401 area to lend a hand as temperatures hovered around -19C, with a windchill driving it lower, closer to -28C.

“The police response was aggressive and massive from the very early going,” said Toronto Police Insp. Frank Barredo. “A missing three-year-old child, in this sort of temperature, in this sort of an environment, is something we treat very, very seriously.”

And then around 10 a.m. the boy was discovered by a pair of volunteers, “tucked away in a corner” beside a home on Baycrest Ave., several blocks from his grandmother’s apartment, Barredo said.

Paramedics worked to save the boy inside an ambulance as friends and neighbours huddled together, crying tears that froze to their faces in the cold.

Donna Castrucci, who lives across the street from where Elijah was discovered, said she was stunned to see the scene unfold in front of her home.

“It’s shocking,” Castrucci said. “I’m just feel sorry for his parents ... I have children myself. As soon as I heard the news I just started to cry.”

The boy was rushed to hospital and police announced his death four hours later.

Condolences poured in, with Chief Bill Blair saying the tragedy touches all involved, the family, community and officers responding to the case.

“I think every Torontonian will feel the loss,” Blair said. “You see the picture of that beautiful boy, the smile and the video of the child going out into the cold at four o’clock in the morning. It really is a tragic set of circumstances.

“I think it will remind all of us to just go home and just hug our kids a little bit more.”

Mayor John Tory said “this is the kind of unspeakable tragedy that no family would want to go through.

“I am a father and I’m a grandfather and when these kinds of things happen in this way to any child you’re just heartbroken about it,” Tory said. “I just extend on behalf of all the people of Toronto our condolences to the family and our support for them as they go through what I’m sure is a very difficult time.”

— With files from Don Peat

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