What should have been a great day for friends at Wasaga Beach turned into a nightmare for a Barrie family that was already grieving the death of another loved one.
Jaiden Milnes, 19, was out with friends enjoying the warm waters of Wasaga Beach when he drowned Tuesday, June 30.
At around 3 p.m., Huronia West OPP officers, Simcoe County paramedics and Wasaga Beach firefighters were called to Beach Area No. 6 after a swimmer was reported to have gone into the water with friends, but did not return.
Jaiden’s father, Alex Milnes, said he is “devastated” at the sudden loss of his son.
The family is also still grieving from the June 27 death of Jaiden's grandmother and trying to be supportive through all of it for Jaiden's 17-year-old sister, Alexa.
“It's all very surreal right now. I’m completely heartbroken,” Milnes said. “Having to sit there and have your son die is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. I could always lean on my mom, but she is gone, too.”
Milnes said he knows some of the details about what happened Tuesday, but didn’t want to talk about it in much detail.
“There’s a part of me that wants to block it out. I don’t want to keep visualizing what he went through,” he said.
Jaiden Milnes died early Wednesday morning at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie after being transferred from Collingwood hospital.
His death has been deemed an accidental drowning.
OPP Sgt. Jason Folz said that early reports indicate Jaiden had “become fatigued and went under the water, and his friends were unable to save him.”
Milnes said his son could swim, but did have asthma. He didn’t know what exactly led to the drowning.
Milnes recalled a vibrant son who enjoyed sports and had a love for Canada’s national game and the Toronto sports scene.
“He loved sports so much and played lacrosse. He absolutely loved the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Raptors and his favourite players were Mats Sundin and Tie Domi,” said Milnes. “We had gone to a few Raptors games, but not the Leafs. I told him I was going to take him to a Leafs game as soon as we could, but now I’ll never be able to do that.”
Jaiden started at Terry Fox Elementary School in his early years and had just last year graduated from St. Joseph’s Catholic High School. He had signed up to study interior decorating at Georgian College, but Milnes said Jaiden was taking a year off and going back this year.
“He had a heart of gold, a really good kid. We never had any problems with him at school; he wasn’t into drinking or bad crowds,” said Jaiden's dad. “He was always there for me, in my ups and downs in my life. He was my rock, he would never give up on me.
"He and Alexa have both been the best kids and I have to be there for her now. She’s completely devastated.”
The last time Milnes saw his son was last Saturday when the family had gathered after the passing of Jaiden’s grandmother, Alex’s mother.
“He was the first grandchild and couldn’t say grandma, so he called her ‘Rara’. The name stuck and then all the kids and family started calling her Rara,” Milnes said.
Milnes wanted to speak out about his son to not only honour Jaiden, but to bring awareness to the dangers of swimming.
“I hope people understand that it can be dangerous out there; if you can’t swim too great or even the unexpected like cramps or an undertow, you could lose your life,” he said. “They don’t have lifeguards here in Wasaga and I hope they change that. I’m not blaming anyone by saying that. I just think it is something that we need to look at going forward.”