An undated family photo of Emmanuel Akrong, his wife Elizabeth and their son Emmanuel Jr. Elizabeth and Emmanuel Jr. drowned in Brampton on Saturday night. (JOHN DANQUAH PHOTO)
“My son is dying.”
Elizabeth Solomon uttered the chilling words in a phone call and then hung up. Minutes later, her husband discovered her body and that of her 5-year-old son Emmanuel Akrong in their backyard pool in Brampton.
“I tried to help my son,” a distraught Emmanuel Akrong Sr. told the Star in a telephone interview on Sunday afternoon, the day after the shocking double tragedy.
He said he also tried to lift his wife out of the water, but couldn’t manage it on his own.
Next-door-neighbour Ozzy Anjum, 28, says he heard Akrong yelling that he needed help for his wife and son at his pool.
Anjum rushed to help, running through the front door and through to the pool area. There he saw the youngster lying on the deck, unresponsive. Solomon, 38, was still in the water, face down.
He tried unsuccessfully to do CPR on the boy, then jumped into the pool with another neighbour to get Solomon.
“We dragged her out and flipped her on the deck. There was dirt in her eyes and mouth,” Anjum recalls. Then the paramedics and police jumped in.
Solomon was taken to hospital, where she died early Sunday morning. Her son was pronounced dead on arrival. A postmortem has been scheduled.
Anjum, an Air Canada employee at Pearson airport, says he was so shaken by the tragedy he had to take the day off work Sunday.
“It’s very sad news. What he (Akrong Sr.) must be going through, this must be so hard on him,” he said. “It’s a long weekend and everyone should be with family. This is very upsetting.”
Her son was pronounced dead on arrival in hospital.
On Sunday, the Star spoke with neighbours and the pastor of the Pentecostal church where Solomon worshipped with her husband.
The Star also spoke briefly with Akrong to piece together how the tragedy unfolded.
Pastor John Danquah spoke by telephone from his home, where grief-stricken Akrong, a director at Tangerine Bank, is staying for the time being. Police have sealed off his residence on Hillson Crt, a quiet residential street northeast of Hwy. 410, for their investigation.
Peel Region police are working with the coroner’s office to determine exactly how the deaths occurred.
Danquah explained that at around 7:30 on Saturday evening, Solomon was on a telephone call to her mother, who lives in Ghana.
Then Solomon said “My son is dying,” and the phone line went dead.
In a panic, Solomon’s mother immediately called her son — Solomon’s brother — in the U.S. and asked him to find out what had happened. He called Brampton and spoke to his brother-in-law, who told him everything was fine as far as he knew.
Akrong was on the second floor having a nap when the telephone call came through.
Moments later, Solomon’s mother, still worried, called and spoke with Akrong, who then went downstairs to look for his wife and son but couldn’t find them.
Akrong told the Star he soon began to fear something had happened near the pool.
He said the pool, which was installed by a previous owner, had been emptied and he and his wife decided they’d close it for this season.
He says the pool contained some rainwater, about two feet of it in the deep end. The water came up to his knees and he could walk through it, he says.
Akrong speculates that his son was walking near the pool, fell in, and his wife tried to rescue the youngster. Neither were swimmers.
“Everyone is surprised she could drown,” Akrong says, referring to his wife.
Akrong described his son as a “lovely boy, my best friend. We had a lot of fun together.”
The youngster was attending a pre-school in Brampton.
He described his wife, who was trained in IT but wasn’t employed, as a loving companion who was highly intelligent and loved her son dearly.
The couple are from Ghana and came to Canada in 2011. They had been sweethearts from a young age and got engaged in Ghana before coming here.
After they arrived in Canada, they joined the Grace and Truth Message Tabernacle, a Pentecostal church in Mississauga. They married at the church in 2012.
Barbara Byers, The Lifesaving Society’s public education director, was not familiar with all of the details of the case, but said the takeaway is that “people can drown in just a little bit of water.
“It can happen in 20 seconds,” she said.
For safety, people with pools need to use fences, locks and other means to restrict access to water, especially because children may see pools as places they want to get to and be drawn to them.