Dieudonne Eca, 15, arrived in the United States on July 5 after spending more than 10 years in a refugee camp, only to have his life in Boise cut short.
On Friday, after emergency responders pulled him from the waters of Quinn’s Pond, he was pronounced dead of a drowning.
Investigators said the teen was swimming at Quinn’s Pond with friends Friday evening. One of Dieudonne’s siblings was with him at the time of the drowning. Twenty-three minutes after first responders were dispatched, they pulled the teenager from the pond, treated him at the scene and transported him to a local hospital. News of his death was released Saturday.
Dieudonne came to the United States with his parents and three siblings, reuniting with his uncle, who had already resettled in Boise, said Julianne Donnelly Tzul, Boise executive director for the International Rescue Committee. Dieudonne and his family were living in a refugee camp in Malawi after fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo in February of 2007.
Donnelly Tzul said IRC staff members and other members of the community were with Dieudonne’s family over the weekend, offering food, support and love.
“It was so beautiful to see the kind of community commitment (to his family) after they had been here only a short time,” Donnelly Tzul said. “It was an example of the richness refugees bring to Boise.”
The IRC is working closely with the family to coordinate funeral arrangements. Donnelly Tzul has said IRC will be asking for community support to defray the costs, which they anticipate to be substantial.
To learn more, IRC directed people to visit Crowdrise, where IRC is collecting donations for funeral expenses. As of 9 a.m. Tuesday, the effort had exceeded its $10,000 goal, bringing in donations from 256 people in 17 hours. The IRC Boise Facebook page also posted information about the family.
“And please keep this family in your hearts,” Donnelly Tzul wrote in an email. “Can you imagine escaping a civil war that has claimed up to 6 million lives as a result of fighting, disease and malnutrition, for a new life in the United States, only to lose your child’s life in a tragic accident in your new home? Strength and love from all Boise communities will be needed to support Dieudonne’s family as they step forward into life after his death.”
The drowning is still under investigation by Boise police.
Boise Police Department spokeswoman Haley Williams said Saturday that the boy was not wearing a life preserver and did not appear to know how to swim.
CORRECTION: Dieudonne’s name was originally misspelled in a notice from the coroner’s office.