38 minutes! That’s how long 14-year-old Blessing Moukoko spent at the bottom of the pool before anyone realized he was missing.

Congolese-Montreal teen, Blessing Moukoko  drowned during a high school gym class after going unnoticed at the bottom of the pool for 38 minutes on Feb. 15, 2018.

Moukoko was taking part in his third swimming lesson at the municipal pool as part of a required gym class at nearby Père Marquette high school.

The course was being taught by a replacement teacher, who had been assigned to teach the swim class despite not completing any swimming courses as part of his physical education degree. The lifeguard on duty, who was fully certified, was helping the substitute teacher teach the course. Consequently, no one was solely dedicated to lifeguarding at the time of the incident.

At the end of the class, the other students got out of the pool and went to the teacher for a self-assessment of the lesson. When Blessing did not show up, the teacher assumed he had already gone to the change room. Records show the teacher still gave him a ⅘ grade.

No head count was done. The teacher and lifeguard said they did a visual check from the shallow end. It was not until the next group of students filed in for their class that they saw what they thought was a mannequin at the bottom of the pool.

Security video shows Blessing enter the pool from the shallow end and visibly struggle, he gets up twice to catch his breath. He goes underwater when he crosses to the deep end, and never surfaces.

The lifeguard retrieved Blessing’s body and he was rushed to the hospital. He died six days later of brain damage from lack of oxygen.

Last Wednesday, the family of Blessing Moukoko said they are planning to sue the school board and the city of Montreal for negligence.

His mother, Evelyne Mavoungou-Tsonga, says she hopes the legal action will shed light on the event and help spare others the nightmare of losing a child.

The family, who immigrated from Congo in 2010, also intend to start a foundation in his name that will support programs that encourage immigrants and Quebecers alike to learn to swim and to participate in sports.

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