This month, the community marks a somber anniversary as many families remember the events of July 13 1954, when 12 children between the ages of six and 11 drowned while on a picnic at Pointe aux Carriers Beach in Ile Bizard.
Among those who perished were eight girls and four boys: Denzil Alleyne 9; Margo Fonseca, 7; Marilyn Fonseca, 8; Brenda Kelly, Carol Leek, 6; Alan Leek, 7; Donna Lewis 10; Paula Milington, 6; Leon Nealy, 8; Diane Springer, 10; Edith Springer, 7; Estelle Walton, 11 and Doreen Walton, 8.
They were members of the Negro Community Centre Day Camp out on a picnic.
The 12 were among 17 kids packed on a 12-foot motorboat that belonged to Montreal businessman Jack Seligman, who offered to take them on what was supposed to be a joyride.
However, the boat stalled in the choppy waters and capsized.
According to newspaper reports , a witness on the scene that day remembered that the top of the boat was just an inch or two above the water. And, as it set out into the lake the winds increased and the water became rough.
Most of the children who drowned lived within a four-block radius bordered by Atwater and Greene avenues and St. Antoine and St. James (now St. Jacques) streets. Many were students at Queen’s Elementary School or Royal Arthur Elementary.
Newspaper reports about the incident stated that many of the parents and other members of the community found out about the tragedy on the radio and gathered at Union United Church to wait for the bus and the surviving children to return..
Only upon its arrival that’s when some parents found out that their precious little ones were gone forever.