A Saskatoon mom is delivering a powerful reminder to cherish loved ones as she prepares to mark Christmas without her 17-year-old son.
Nolan Royer drowned in a pool at Saskatoon’s Hotel Sheraton on Nov. 10.
Jodie Lonsberry told Saskatoon Afternoon host David Kirton it’s taken her some time to gather the strength to speak out publicly, but she hopes doing so will make more parents aware of safety issues around water.
“He would have wanted to help and I want to honour that,” she said.
Lonsberry explained her son was a healthy, athletic teen, who ran marathons and took on difficult physical training as a dedicated member of the cadets.
She said Royer also took an interest in deep sea diving, and trained himself to hold his breath.
Royer died after challenging a friend to see who could stay underwater longest in the pool.
“It didn’t make any sense to me how a very fit young boy could drown in a kids’ pool. And how nobody could notice,” Lonsberry said.
Lonsberry said she later learned Royer passed out while playing the game. The natural response when losing consciousness is to take a deep breath. This caused her son’s lungs to fill quickly with water, with no signs to alert any of the many bystanders who were nearby.
“I just couldn’t get it in my head how nobody could see it. But that’s the scary part: there’s no struggle.”
Lonsberry said her son’s death led her to research similar incidents. She said she learned that city pools already forbid breath-holding exercises.
She said she hopes parents will take her son’s death as a warning that even a highly-trained swimmer can be at risk in a shallow body of water.
“Because it’s happened before in the city, it’s obviously something that does happen and just to be a little more responsible and watchful of it and talk to your kids.”
Lonsberry said she and her six other children have tried to spend as much time together as they can leading into what will be a tough first Christmas without Royer at the table.
“Something like this definitely brings home that you can’t take things for granted and you can’t take your family for granted. So that’s all we’ve wanted to do since this incident is just all be together.”
Lonsberry finished by praising the efforts of nurses who happened to be at the pool when her son had his accident, and the first responders who arrived within about three minutes. She added that she didn’t blame the hotel for the incident.
“It was a horrible accident. And I think when you know the dangers, you can watch out for them a bit better,” she said.
Royer died just a few days shy of what would have been his eighteenth birthday.