At Toronto teacher’s trial, student describes panic of being pulled under water by drowning teen

Despite the tragedy, 21-year-old Boran Balci brightened when describing the fun and excitement of his first canoe trip to Algonquin Park with fellow Toronto high school students in the summer of 2017.After a couple of days of paddling, portaging and setting up and taking down campsites, “everyone was happy” and the novice canoeists itching for a cleansing dip in Big Trout Lake.On the trip was Balci’s friend from C.W. Jeffery’s Collegiate, 15-year-old Jeremiah Perry, whom he called “Jerry.” Both were recent immigrants to Canada — Balci and his family arriving from Turkey in 2015; Perry and his brother leaving Barbados to join their father in Toronto the following year.Before entering the water in the early evening of July 4, 2017, Balci slipped on a life-jacket. While he had some swimming ability, he feared deep water. “When I had a life-jacket, I felt safe.”On Wednesday, he described to a Toronto court via Zoom the terrifying moments of what happened next. He was testifying at teacher Nicholas Mills’ criminal negligence trial in front of Superior Court Justice Maureen Forestell. Prosecutors allege Mills’ numerous failures led to Perry’s death. Mills’ defence is arguing that despite his breaches of Toronto District School Board rules, and other alleged transgressions, they do not equate to criminal negligence.While floating in the lake above a steep drop-off, Balci dipped his head in the water and revelled in the sensation of getting clean when, suddenly, something “super strong” grabbed his legs and pulled his head beneath the surface.“I start washing my hair and something started pulling me down,” Balci said. “Whatever that thing down there it doesn’t want me to stay on top of the water ... it was a fight for me.”At first, Balci thought a monster, shark or octopus was pulling him down, unaware it was Perry desperately trying to save his own life.Prosecutor Jenny Rodopoulos asked Balci if anyone else at the swim site could hear or see him struggling. In addition to several other students, Mills and lifeguard Lucia Fernandez were in or near the water.“No, ’cause I was swallowing lots of water,” and flailing his arms trying to stay afloat, he replied, adding later: “it’s not like the movies ... you can’t yell ‘help, help.’”With Balci gasping for air as his head bobbed above and below the water, he wasn’t in a position to try and save anyone — even if he had known it was a person. “I am not that much of a good swimmer to save someone’s life.”After one or two minutes, the pulling stopped.Balci said as he headed back to shore, he started yelling “something pulled me down, something pulled me down.” Mills “told me that it was the dog, I guess he didn’t want me to worry,” Balci said. Mills’ pet dog, Odin, had been beside him in the water.But Balci noticed he couldn’t see “Jerry,” whom he’d last seen splashing his feet in the shallow water.“I looked around and see Jerry missing,” and, “I told myself, ‘how can I make them believe that someone is missing.’”Balci called out to his Turkish friend, “at the time my English was not perfect,” and asked him to check if the teen was on the island.Mills ordered everyone out of the water and the students scrambled to search for Perry on the island and around their campsite. Fernandez was joined by another lifeguard, as Balci attempted to point to the area in the water where he’d been grabbed.While they all “searched like crazy,” Perry could not be found. Mills used a satellite phone to summon a helicopter to the island, Balci said.Perry’s body was located the next day by an OPP diver, in about 22 feet of water about 42 feet from shore. He did not have a life-jacket on.The defence position is Mills believed the teen could swim despite having failed a swim test that was supposed to be a prerequisite to attend the trip. Balci also failed the swim test.No evidence has been called during the trial on how or why Perry moved from the shallow shoreline where he was last seen, to the end of the deep drop off and beyond.Balci was the final trip participant to testify and the Crown’s penultimate witness in the seven-week-old trial. For weeks, his appearance at the trial was uncertain after telling police and prosecutors he couldn’t bear to relive the experience.“He has bad dreams and memories,” an Ontario Provincial Police officer told the judge earlier this month. “He goes to the cemetery where Jeremiah is.”A pathologist is scheduled to testify Friday before defence lawyer Phil Campbell begins calling a defence on Monday that he estimated will last three days.Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy

At Toronto teacher’s trial, student describes panic of being pulled under water by drowning teen

Despite the tragedy, 21-year-old Boran Balci brightened when describing the fun and excitement of his first canoe trip to Algonquin Park with fellow Toronto high school students in the summer of 2017.

After a couple of days of paddling, portaging and setting up and taking down campsites, “everyone was happy” and the novice canoeists itching for a cleansing dip in Big Trout Lake.

On the trip was Balci’s friend from C.W. Jeffery’s Collegiate, 15-year-old Jeremiah Perry, whom he called “Jerry.” Both were recent immigrants to Canada — Balci and his family arriving from Turkey in 2015; Perry and his brother leaving Barbados to join their father in Toronto the following year.

Before entering the water in the early evening of July 4, 2017, Balci slipped on a life-jacket. While he had some swimming ability, he feared deep water. “When I had a life-jacket, I felt safe.”

On Wednesday, he described to a Toronto court via Zoom the terrifying moments of what happened next. He was testifying at teacher Nicholas Mills’ criminal negligence trial in front of Superior Court Justice Maureen Forestell. Prosecutors allege Mills’ numerous failures led to Perry’s death. Mills’ defence is arguing that despite his breaches of Toronto District School Board rules, and other alleged transgressions, they do not equate to criminal negligence.

While floating in the lake above a steep drop-off, Balci dipped his head in the water and revelled in the sensation of getting clean when, suddenly, something “super strong” grabbed his legs and pulled his head beneath the surface.

“I start washing my hair and something started pulling me down,” Balci said. “Whatever that thing down there it doesn’t want me to stay on top of the water ... it was a fight for me.”

At first, Balci thought a monster, shark or octopus was pulling him down, unaware it was Perry desperately trying to save his own life.

Prosecutor Jenny Rodopoulos asked Balci if anyone else at the swim site could hear or see him struggling. In addition to several other students, Mills and lifeguard Lucia Fernandez were in or near the water.

“No, ’cause I was swallowing lots of water,” and flailing his arms trying to stay afloat, he replied, adding later: “it’s not like the movies ... you can’t yell ‘help, help.’”

With Balci gasping for air as his head bobbed above and below the water, he wasn’t in a position to try and save anyone — even if he had known it was a person. “I am not that much of a good swimmer to save someone’s life.”

After one or two minutes, the pulling stopped.

Balci said as he headed back to shore, he started yelling “something pulled me down, something pulled me down.” Mills “told me that it was the dog, I guess he didn’t want me to worry,” Balci said. Mills’ pet dog, Odin, had been beside him in the water.

But Balci noticed he couldn’t see “Jerry,” whom he’d last seen splashing his feet in the shallow water.

“I looked around and see Jerry missing,” and, “I told myself, ‘how can I make them believe that someone is missing.’”

Balci called out to his Turkish friend, “at the time my English was not perfect,” and asked him to check if the teen was on the island.

Mills ordered everyone out of the water and the students scrambled to search for Perry on the island and around their campsite. Fernandez was joined by another lifeguard, as Balci attempted to point to the area in the water where he’d been grabbed.

While they all “searched like crazy,” Perry could not be found. Mills used a satellite phone to summon a helicopter to the island, Balci said.

Perry’s body was located the next day by an OPP diver, in about 22 feet of water about 42 feet from shore. He did not have a life-jacket on.

The defence position is Mills believed the teen could swim despite having failed a swim test that was supposed to be a prerequisite to attend the trip. Balci also failed the swim test.

No evidence has been called during the trial on how or why Perry moved from the shallow shoreline where he was last seen, to the end of the deep drop off and beyond.

Balci was the final trip participant to testify and the Crown’s penultimate witness in the seven-week-old trial. For weeks, his appearance at the trial was uncertain after telling police and prosecutors he couldn’t bear to relive the experience.

“He has bad dreams and memories,” an Ontario Provincial Police officer told the judge earlier this month. “He goes to the cemetery where Jeremiah is.”

A pathologist is scheduled to testify Friday before defence lawyer Phil Campbell begins calling a defence on Monday that he estimated will last three days.

Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy

Source : Toronto Star More   

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Go fourth and prosper: The Raptors’ surprise NBA draft slot has been occupied by the likes of Chris Bosh and Chris Paul

The Raptors beat the odds. How big will the payout be?After Toronto moved up from the No. 7 slot to No. 4 at Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery, now the fun starts. Dozens of mock drafts, rankings and even trade scenarios will be plotted out in the weeks leading up to the July 29 draft. And as Raptors GM Bobby Webster said, “all of our options are open.”Many experts consider this one of the deepest draft classes in years, rife with teenaged prospects of varying skills and sizes.It’s fun to imagine what type of player might be available to the Raptors at No. 4. Will they add a useful rotation player like Shaun Livingston, a future all-star like Stephon Marbury, a Hall of Famer like Chris Bosh, or a prospect who doesn’t quite live up to the hype — hello, Dragan Bender.While every draft class is different and it’s impossible to predict how prospects will pan out long-term, here’s a list of all the fourth overall draft picks since 1990, ranked by number of all-star appearances.Braydon Holmyard is a Star sports team editor based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @braydonholmyard

Go fourth and prosper: The Raptors’ surprise NBA draft slot has been occupied by the likes of Chris Bosh and Chris Paul

The Raptors beat the odds. How big will the payout be?

After Toronto moved up from the No. 7 slot to No. 4 at Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery, now the fun starts. Dozens of mock drafts, rankings and even trade scenarios will be plotted out in the weeks leading up to the July 29 draft. And as Raptors GM Bobby Webster said, “all of our options are open.”

Many experts consider this one of the deepest draft classes in years, rife with teenaged prospects of varying skills and sizes.

It’s fun to imagine what type of player might be available to the Raptors at No. 4. Will they add a useful rotation player like Shaun Livingston, a future all-star like Stephon Marbury, a Hall of Famer like Chris Bosh, or a prospect who doesn’t quite live up to the hype — hello, Dragan Bender.

While every draft class is different and it’s impossible to predict how prospects will pan out long-term, here’s a list of all the fourth overall draft picks since 1990, ranked by number of all-star appearances.

Braydon Holmyard is a Star sports team editor based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @braydonholmyard

Source : Toronto Star More   

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