A P.E.I. Green party candidate and his young son died in a canoeing accident Friday.
Josh Underhay and his son died after their canoe capsized on the Hillsborough River.
Queens District RCMP received a call at 4:20 p.m. of two people reported missing on the river.
RCMP said the two had gone canoeing for the afternoon but had not returned to the agreed pick-up spot on time.
An immediate search was commenced by boat and on shore by Crossroads Fire Department, Charlottetown Fire Department, Department of Fisheries, North River Fire Department and RCMP.
The two were located in the water near the capsized canoe. Both had been wearing flotation devices and were taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where they were declared deceased.
“The Queens District RCMP’s thoughts are with the family and friends of the victims of this terrible tragedy,” said an RCMP statement.
RCMP are continuing to investigate the incident, which police said includes determining the circumstances. Police asked for anyone who saw a red canoe on the Hillsborough River mid-afternoon Friday behind Hertz Road in East Royalty to call RCMP at 902-370-9100.
Underhay was the Green candidate for District 9 Charlottetown - Hillsborough Park in P.E.I.'s upcoming provincial election Tuesday, April 23.
All four of P.E.I.’s political parties have cancelled their planned events Saturday.
Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker issued a statement early Saturday morning saying he was bereft to learn about the deaths, which he described as a tragic accident.
“Josh has been a dear friend and colleague of mine for many years, as a volunteer, musician, passionate cycling advocate and Green party supporter. He has touched the lives of everyone who knew him, including the students he taught, fellow musicians, and members of the party. Whether advocating for proportional representation, dazzling us with his mastery of languages, or being there to support fellow candidates, Josh brought humour, enthusiasm and boundless energy to every situation,” said Bevan-Baker.
Underhay was a teacher at Charlottetown's Birchwood Intermediate.
“I simply cannot imagine how much he will be missed,” said Bevan-Baker. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, and I know we will all join together to provide each other with support and comfort during this terrible time.”
In his statement, Bevan-Baker said all Green party election activities have been suspended for the remainder of the campaign.
A gofundme campaign has been set up to help raise funds for Underhay's family.
PC Leader Dennis King issued a statement extending sympathies from the party to Underhay’s family.
“Today, is a heart-breaking day for all Islanders. It is a reminder of how fragile life is and how often we take it for granted,” said King, who described Underhay as a dedicated teacher and community leader. “He was an advocate, talented musician and friend to many. Throughout this campaign, it was evident that Josh entered politics to make a difference for all Islanders. His commitment to shaping future generations was always sincere. He has left a lasting impression on everyone who knew him. Josh and his son will be missed by all."
Liberal Leader Wade MacLauchlan said Underhay’s commitment to his community and province was always evident.
“From his participation as a candidate in this campaign, his work to promote active transportation, to his career as a teacher at Birchwood Intermediate School, Josh's contributions to our province will always be remembered,” said MacLauchlan. “On behalf of the P.E.I. Liberal Party, I offer condolences to Josh's family and friends, and his school community, at this difficult time.”
NDP Leader Joe Byrne said he was thinking of Underhay’s family and loved ones during the difficult time.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with them,” said Byrne, who described Underhay as being committed to working for positive change in his community. “His life has touched so many in our community, and he is deeply missed.
“Words are so often insufficient to express the depth of sadness when we see the hope and promise of two lives dedicated to transforming our world cut short so suddenly. So please let us take solace in the relationships around us that give us strength, love and passion for ourselves and for our commitment to make the world a better place.”
P.E.I. Senator Brian Francis also extended his condolences to Underhay’s family in a public statement.
“I pray they find peace and comfort during these very difficult times,” said Francis.
The Guardian will update this story as more details become available.