Supul Jayasinghe had just completed his final exam at Memorial University. To celebrate, the 21-year-old biology student and his family walked along the Flatrock coast Wednesday evening, sunbathing.
“We simply looked around [at] the sea,”
Don Jayasinghe, Supul’s father, told the media on Thursday at the same place where a family outing took a tragic turn in a matter of seconds.
Don Jayasinghe said his son, running after family dog Neo, slipped on the rocks and into the water as his parents watched on.
“No, don’t go, son, don’t go there,” Jayasinghe recalled shouting.
His father said Supul, surprised by ending up in the water, originally didn’t take the fall seriously.
“But when he was trying to come out … whatever he touched, slipped,” Jayasinghe said.
Supul tumbled in the waves as the current carried him farther offshore.
“I was following him, talking to him. And suddenly he understood it is difficult. He asked my help, ‘Dad, help me,'” Jayasinghe said.
The father attempted to throw the dog’s leash to his son, and almost fell into the water himself. His son appeared to float, treading water, as darkness came upon them.
10 minutes later, he disappeared.
Supul’s parents expressed stoic acceptance of their loss on Wednesday 21, speaking openly to the media about the ordeal.
“I am a Buddhist. So everything happens with a reason. So therefore I have the courage still to stand and talk to you,” Jayasinghe said.
“What has happened has happened.… He’s gone.”
Jayasinghe described his son as a “very beautiful soul,” a well-rounded youngster who excelled at school and in sports.
Supul volunteered and had aspirations in medicine, and as a teenager even earned a private pilot’s license and a spot in the local Alberta paper, as per his tearful mother, Chandima.
The young man dreamed one day about joining Doctors Without Borders, traveling the globe to help the sick, his dad said, even saying he would give up his salary to locals who needed it more.
“That’s how he was.… All the time he was thinking [of] other people, not himself.”
The family moved to Canada from Sri Lanka to encourage that ambition. They spent years in Ontario followed by Alberta, before settling down in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2017.
“So far,” Jayasinghe said, “we don’t have any idea what’s next.”
Jayasinghe, standing near the shore that took Supul, implored others to remain vigilant near the icy water.
“Young people, please listen to your parents.… Don’t ignore their advice,” Jayasinghe said firmly. “Because if our son heard our words — ‘come back, come back, don’t go there, don’t go there’ — he would have been still alive today.”
As of Thursday afternoon, rescuers had not yet deemed the operation a recovery mission. If it happens, and if the body is eventually discovered, the Jayasinghe family says it will not change how they feel.
“It doesn’t return our son,” Jayasinghe said. “Our son is gone forever.”
Search goes on in air and at sea
The air and sea search continues Thursday, as Supul’s parents and friends remain at the location.
A spokesperson from the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary was expected to talk to reporters early Thursday afternoon.
A helicopter from 103 Search and Rescue Squadron in Gander, a Canadian Coast Guard ship from St. John’s, and Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers spent Wednesday night exploring the area after authorities were informed of the missing individual.
Officers arrived in the Flatrock area about 8:15 p.m, as per an RNC report, with the Cormorant chopper arriving minutes afterward. They searched the coastline and waters, at times using flares to illuminate the area.
Shortly after 2 a.m., police said in a tweet that they had scaled back their search efforts, focused on the shoreline and the water, till morning came.
By daybreak, both Zodiac and a Canadian Coast guard vessel were present in a location, with a command center from the Rovers Search and Rescue from Paradise additionally set up.