July 23rd, 2024

Quebec teen drowns while swimming in Gulf of Mexico with high school swim club

By The Canadian Press on March 8, 2024.

INDIAN SHORES, Fla. – A Quebec teenager died in Florida while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico with a high school swim team during spring break, authorities say.

The sheriff’s office in Pinellas County, just outside Tampa, said 17-year-old William Zhang was found by an underwater search and recovery team late Wednesday afternoon after he failed to return to shore after morning swimming drills.

Collège Notre-Dame, the private high school in Montreal where Zhang studied, said its students and staff have been deeply impacted by his death.

“Support resources are in place for the entire college educational community,” a spokesperson wrote in an email.

“Out of respect for the family, we ask you to respect their privacy during this difficult ordeal that we are currently experiencing.”

The school’s swimmers and triathletes, as well as their coaches, have returned to Quebec, the school said. It declined to provide more information on the swim trip.

Police were called Wednesday morning after Zhang had not returned to shore at the end of drills. The news of a missing swimmer triggered a major search effort that included police, a fire rescue service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard, the sheriff’s office said.

Zhang’s body was found at 5:23 p.m., more than eight hours after he was reported missing.

Police said the swim coaches told them they had checked for riptides or other hazards in the water before drills started.

The death does not appear suspicious and the investigation continues, the sheriff’s office added.

Quebec’s swimming federation – Fédération de natation du Québec – wrote on social media to express its sadness over Zhang’s death.

“Although William was not affiliated with our federation, his loss touches us, and the entire aquatic community is in mourning,” the federation wrote on Facebook.

The federation said it was working with local authorities to understand what happened, and reminded athletes to make safety a top priority while training abroad.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2024.

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