Memories of drownings still fresh in Pouch Cove

Steve Bartlett
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Time hasn’t faded Sarah Patten’s memory of the day the ocean claimed the lives of three Pouch Cove teens.

A Canadian Coast Guard helicopter hovers above the waters of Pouch Cove while looking for two of three teenage boys who were swept away March 8, 2001.

The tragedy happened 10 years ago today. Patten was the small community’s mayor, a position she still holds today.

“It was horrendous,” she recalled Monday.

The accident occurred late in the afternoon of March 8, 2001.

Some teenaged boys were “copying” ice pans — jumping from one to another — when a wave hauled one into the water.

Two friends tried to rescue him but they, too, were pulled in by waves.

The three boys — Jesse Elliott, Adam Wall and A.J. Sullivan — drowned. A fourth boy who was with them ran for help.

The loss of three teens who ranged in age from 16 to 18 shook Pouch Cove and captured the national media’s spotlight.

Patten remembers driving home from work in St. John’s and seeing the commotion in her community and around her home by the sea.

“I said, ‘What am I going to do? I got to go over.’ It’s one of those things that you really don’t know if you want to go over there.”

In the end, she went to the scene and then visited with the boys’ families.

Fortunately, she said, their bodies were eventually recovered.

"It's one of those things that you really don't know if you want to go over there." Pouch Cove Mayor Sarah Patten

Patten said the families appear to be doing well now.

She’s unsure how much pain they’re still dealing with, and suggests if it were one of her children who was lost, she likely wouldn’t be doing that well.

Walter Butt was Pouch Cove’s deputy mayor at the time and oversaw the town’s emergency response as the tragedy unfolded.

Like Patten, his memories remain fresh.

“I think it will take a long time before the people of Pouch Cove forget this tragedy,” said Butt, currently a town councillor.

Asked how tough it was, he replied, “Let’s put it this way: I wouldn’t want to go through it again.”

Both Patten and Butt said the tragedy made the people of Pouch Cove more aware of the power of the sea.

“You don’t see as many people around the water now like you used to,” said Butt.

“I think people have more respect today for the water than ever before, because it shows no mercy.”

Twitter: bartlett_steve

Geographic location: Pouch Cove

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Recent comments

  • Chrissy
    January 04, 2013 - 21:26

    it's almost been twelve years and i still Jessie and Adam

  • Katrina Murrin
    March 08, 2012 - 17:03

    It is not that hard to get the right info but it seems like the media still can't get it right, think about what the families have been through and what they are still going through and then they have to read the paper again to see that the story that has been told about their boys is so wrong, come on media get it right. Rest in peace Jesse, Adam and AJ you guys will never be forgotten.

  • J Wade
    March 08, 2012 - 08:42

    On March 8, 2001, 18-year-old Jesse Elliott and 16-year-old Adam Wall lost their lives while trying to rescue a friend who had fallen into the ice-filled bay of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador. The cousins and two other teenagers were at the seashore watching the waves from a three-meter high ice-and-snow-covered rock when a chunk broke off, sending the boy into the seething mass of ice and freezing water. While one teenager ran for help, Jesse jumped in after him and tried to reach his side, but the boy disappeared below the surface before Jesse could save him. Seeing that Jesse was in trouble, Adam then leapt into the Atlantic Ocean. Jesse and Adam, holding on to each other, managed to grab a rope thrown to them from shore when they were struck by a slab of ice and drowned.

  • olivia
    February 20, 2012 - 08:29

    love u and miss u jesse adum and aj rip

  • Jennifer
    March 08, 2011 - 19:24

    Stephanie is right. They were not jumping on the ice pans. I can't believe that after 10 years, the media still has the information wrong. RIP Adam, Jesse and AJ. Miss you sooo much!

  • Holy Trinity Student
    March 08, 2011 - 17:24

    I remember that day. I remember looking and taking notice of Adam, that day in school with hisblack shirt, and gold line,,,with blue jeans... RIP Jesse,Adam and A.J... Gone, but never forgotten.

  • Steph
    March 08, 2011 - 14:17

    It really upsets people when the media gets the information wrong, the boys were not jumping from ice pan to ice pan as much of the media is potraying. Get the facts straight before releasing the information.

    • Michelle
      March 08, 2011 - 15:06

      I agree with Steph, I lived in that area at the time, there were NO ice pans to be found..please get the correct information.

    • Candice
      March 08, 2011 - 19:34

      STEPH: you should actually email the editor of this story because its crazy! RIP Jesse, Adam & AJ Heavens finest angels. xoxoxoxo

    • Candice
      March 08, 2011 - 19:39

      After ten years of them being gone. You would assume out of respect for the family and friends you would post the real story of what happened. Adam,Jesse & Aj xoxoxo