Family, Larga Baffin staff mourn loss of two drowned Nunavut men
“It’s going to take a long time for everybody to get over it”
The staff and residents of Larga Bafffin and family members are mourning the accidental drowning deaths July 1 of two Larga Baffin residents, Solomon Oyukuluk and Ian Shooyook, after their bodies were recovered from the Ottawa River.
Both men, who are from Arctic Bay, were in Ottawa acting as medical escorts, Oyukuluk, 26, for his mother, and Shooyook, 21, for his father at the Larga Baffin patient home, which houses and cares for Baffin residents when they visit Ottawa for medical appointments.
The men were presumed drowned early in the morning of July 1 near the Deschênes Rapids in the Ottawa River, Cst. Henri Lanctot said, confirming that they had been accompanied by three other people.
When both men struggled in the water, passerby Patrick Papineau attempted to save them, but ended up going back to shore to catch his breath after a struggle.
In a dive search effort by the Ottawa police, the first body was recovered on July 2 and the second on July 3, Lanctot said.
The police search is now over and things are drawing to a close, he said. “It’s very tragic and it brings closure to the families the fact that the bodies have been recovered.”
Both young men were very well liked and respected by those who knew them.
Through an interpreter, Isaac Shooyook, 73, describes his adopted son as an “angel” and as a kind and caring young man, who had been “so excited to be coming to Ottawa” and always enjoyed helping his siblings and his mother.
Oyukuluk’s mother, Tootalie Qangoo, 60, described her son as a “good boy” with a quiet demeanor.
Qangoo shared with the interpreter that because she has some accessibility issues, Oyukuluk would pick her up “lovingly” to get her to where ever she needed to go, saying, “that’s just the kind of human being he was.”
Oyukuluk was a proud member of the Canadian Rangers for several years and was recently promoted to corporal. His mother says his favourite part about being a Ranger was being a sharpshooter.
Qangoo described an occasion when Solomon was asked to lead his team through rough waters. Though his experience was limited, he recalled the advice his father gave him as young boy on how to read the water and he “got through it.”
During the police investigation, it was determined that alcohol was a factor, Lanctot said. But Trudy Metcalfe-Coe, general manager of Larga Baffin, where both men and their parents were staying, disputes that.
“That would come out during the investigation and the autopsy, but from what we know of them, I would say it was not a contributing factor. I feel safe in saying that, just because of what we know of them and the families feel the same way,” she said.
It was Shooyook’s first time South, but Oyukuluk has been down numerous times before, escorting different people.
“He was quiet, reserved, shy, but a very helpful individual,” Metcalfe-Coe said. “Just doing for others. Ian was the same kind of individual,” she said.
Escorts come to the centre to assist an accompanying patient in whatever capacity is needed.
Both Oyukuluk’s mother, Tootalie Qangoo, and Shooyook’s father, Isaac Shooyook are still at Larga Baffin.
“They are here at this time waiting for Solomon and Ian, to be able to go back home with them,” she said.
The group at Larga is saddened by what happened.
“Everybody being here for each other has made a big impact on all of us,” Metcalfe-Coe said.
Now, the people involved are finding some closure.
“The best thing is that both bodies were recovered and they’ll be able to go back home with their families and find closure. That’s important,” the general manager said, adding, “it’s going to take a long time for everybody to get over it, but we just have to remember who they were.”