Family, community remember siblings who died in boating incident

By: Sherri Kolade | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published July 19, 2013

 Attendees at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Preparatory gather July 16 to pray the rosary in memory of the Mansour children.

Attendees at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Preparatory gather July 16 to pray the rosary in memory of the Mansour children.

Photo by Donna Agusti


KEEGO HARBOR — A relative of two West Bloomfield children who died after a boating incident in Keego Harbor is looking to God for encouragement while dealing with the deaths and looking for the recovery of a third sibling.

“I am not even one minute (going to) forget what happened to them,” Suad Betty, of Orchard Lake, said after a candlelight vigil July 16 at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Preparatory for her West Bloomfield relatives, 11-year-old Alexander Mansour and 6-year-old Gabrielle Mansour, who died after being struck by a boat. Their sister, Adriana Mansour, 10, was critically injured.

“I am praying, and I offer to their family my sympathies,” Betty said. “I hope they are going to heal. I ask God to be able to accept this tragedy. We cannot do anything except prayer. Prayer for the dead and the living.”

A relative of the family reportedly issued a statement thanking the community for their thoughts and prayers, and asking for continued prayers for Adriana. The statement reportedly said a memorial fund may be set up in the children’s name.

The Rev. Pierre Konja, assistant pastor of Mother of God Chaldean Catholic Church, where the funerals were scheduled to be held, said that the family needs all the encouragement the public can give.

“The family is in need of our prayers and support in this difficult time,” he said.

Adriana Mansour remained in critical condition at Royal Oak Beaumont Hospital as of July 17. Bob Ortlieb, spokesman for Beaumont Health System, said on July 19 that he could not discuss any updates in Adriana Mansour’s condition per the family’s request, and she is under “total privacy.”

The fatal boating incident happened at around 12:30 p.m. on Sylvan Lake July 14, according to the Keego Harbor Police Department and Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.

According to a press release, the children’s 40-year-old father, John Mansour, was towing them on a raft behind his Jet Ski heading north to south on the lake, when a 56-year-old Sylvan Lake driver of the boat, travelling west to east, collided with the raft.

According to the press release, the 56-year-old man told authorities that he saw the Jet Ski pass in front of him, but he “never saw the raft being pulled until he collided with it.”

Alcohol does not appear to be a factor, according to the Keego Harbor Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said the accident is still under investigation.

Keego Harbor Police Chief Kenneth Hurst said marine laws were created to keep people safe.

“The marine laws were made to not be disregarded, and some of them have dealt with tragedies already — that is why the laws are there,” he said.

According to the Handbook of Michigan Boating Laws and Responsibilities, a motorized watercraft traveling above planing speed must stay at least 100 feet away from docks, rafts, swimmers and other watercraft; personal watercraft must stay 150 feet from boats if crossing a wake.

A spotter in boats and Jet Skis is required when pulling skiers, tubers and the like; according to local law enforcement officials, the boater was not 100 feet away, and the Jet Ski did not have a spotter.

Keego Harbor Police Marine Officer Jim Cote said the 100-foot rule is regularly not practiced, and several people already have died in local lakes this season alone from boat-related incidents.

Keego Harbor City Councilman John Newberry said he was about 50 yards away from the incident when it unfolded.

“It is a little emotional,” he told C & G Newspapers recently. “Me and my wife were sitting in the water next to our boat. … The children just went by and were heading toward the canal … when we saw the boat coming across,” he said. “We saw the boat hitting the tube. At that point, I yelled at my wife to get on the boat and for her to call 911 immediately.”

The couple then went on their boat over to the Jet Ski and assisted as much as possible; paramedics arrived in a matter of minutes.

Keego Harbor resident Haley Cassar, 28, was looking out toward the lake off her back patio at her grandparents’ house when she saw the incident take place.­

“Before you knew it, I saw a boat that hit the tube head-on,” Cassar said. “Where I was, the boat was coming at my direction and … I just saw the boat run straight over the tube, and it made a really loud noise. … All you heard was a man screaming, ‘No, no, no…’” she said. “I was hysterical. These children that were killed … it is so heartbreaking to even think that. The perspective is different witnessing an accident on the water than witnessing a car crash or something on land.”

The West Bloomfield School District posted a letter on its website a day after the boating incident for school district families, with a message from Superintendent Gerald Hill.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic accident. … Our thoughts and our hearts go out to the family that is suffering this loss.”

He added that children learn about how to react to traumatic situations by watching and listening to parents, peers and the media.

WBSD social worker Sommer Yono said children vary in how they grieve, and parents should respond accordingly.

“Offer support when a child asks; depending on their age, share as much or as little information,” she said in an emailed state-ment. “Don’t sound too wordy or use lots of jargon. Tell kids the truth, but one does not need to give more information than they can handle, or more than they’re asking for. The important point to keep in mind here is to watch for any changes in their behavior that may be of concern and address it head-on, and if warranted, seek professional help.”

Keego Harbor resident Cindee Rosenthal said she was on her deck outside looking out on the water when she heard the crash.

“I saw them come by,” she said of the family. “I look down, and then, boom, a second a later they (the children) are gone in the water.”

She said the “biggest fear” is that the incident could have happened to anyone.

“You say, ‘This is not going to happen to me because I am careful,’” she said. “I think it was so quick and so unforeseen.”

Newberry said he wished the best for the family.

“For the family, I hope … that they are able to recover and move on with their life. It happened on a beautiful day when everybody was enjoying life.”