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Bodies of Repulse Bay cousins found

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Repulse Bay (Aug 05/02) - Exhausted and reeling from the tragedy, Repulse Bay is settling into a sort of grieving peace after the bodies of two teens were found by searchers dragging the bay.

"It is a very unrestful peace," said Steven Kopak, the hamlet's acting senior administrator. "It's a very bad time we're going through. And yet we're happy that they've found the bodies. All we can do is pray for the parents now and pray for the family members."

The bodies of Andy Tagornak, 13, and his cousin Darryl Tagornak, 17, were found last week just in front of the tiny community off the upper western reaches of Hudson Bay.

At press time, funeral arrangements were awaiting the arrival of relatives.

The Tagornak cousins disappeared between 5 and 6 a.m. July 27 after a kayak they had taken from shore was discovered overturned in the water.

The empty one-person vessel triggered a search that involved the entire community -- dragging the waters from boats, patrolling the shores by foot and on ATV, and in some cases crafting home-made hooks.

Andy's body was found first, at 9 p.m. July 30. Darryl's body was discovered at 5:20 p.m. the next day.

The cause of death has been ruled accidental. Autopsies will not be conducted on the bodies, although samples from the older boy's body were sent out for toxicology testing.

"Really, the results of this accident are because they went out on a kayak without life jackets and without survival gear," said RCMP Cpl. Liz Douglas. "That water is extremely cold and from what I understand, they didn't swim very well."

The water was no more than two degrees above freezing, meaning hypothermia would set in with frightening speed.

Some witnesses told the RCMP that Darryl was a little drunk that evening. Both boys were involved in what Douglas called "normal activities" before the accident occurred.

Late-night activities

Douglas said the boys had attended the Friday night teen dance, and left around 1 a.m. They then visited several people's houses, sitting around and talking, before deciding they wanted to go out on a kayak.

Being awake in the early hours of the morning is hardly unusual, said Douglas.

"(The kids) are always out, hanging out. Kids play, all different ages, all the time."

About 20 minutes after leaving shore, a 12-year-old spotted the overturned kayak. However, search crews and the RCMP were not notified until almost 12 hours later, when the teens were noticed missing.

Searchers combed the waters day and night to find the bodies. At some points, as many as 50 boats scanned the waters, directed from shore by the hamlet's search and rescue co-ordinator. Some searchers operated on as little as two hours of sleep a night.

"They were exhausted, just totally putting all of their efforts into it," said Douglas. "They were trying to take breaks during high tide but ... some of them were just walking, they were so numb. They were just trying to find the boys, for the family and for the whole community."

The bodies were found near each other, about seven metres beneath the surface.

Earlier in the week, an underwater camera was flown in from Rankin to help the search. However, a leak in the camera prevented it from being used.

Soon after RCMP were notified on July 27, the Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Trenton, Ont., chartered a local helicopter to conduct an air survey of the bay. Incoming and outgoing aircraft were also requested to scan the waters for any sign of the bodies.

In the end, the bodies were found by different searchers and dragged to the surface onto boats.