One week after her son failed to return from an afternoon of solo kayaking, White Rock artist Kim Lake holds little hope the teen is still alive.
“There’s really no evidence at all that he survived,” Lake said Wednesday of 16-year-old Orlando Graham. “Since it happened, neither his (biological) mom or I have been able to feel that he is here.”
Orlando – who attended Semiahmoo Secondary for Grade 8 and part of Grade 9 – was reported missing shortly after 10 p.m. June 29, about eight hours after he set out in his red kayak from Hornby Island’s Sandpiper Beach in the Georgia Strait.
The kayak was found the following morning on nearby Mushroom Beach, with a pair of shoes and Orlando’s lifejacket inside.
Nearly 60 searches that followed found no further signs of Orlando, and his family believes he fell victim to a sudden weather pattern that even a far more experienced paddler would have had difficulty navigating.
“We believe he fought hard, but was taken by the sea and dangerous circumstances,” his stepfather, Peter Addison, writes in a blog that shares information on the tragedy.
Lake and Addison travelled to Hornby last weekend, and Addison spent part of Sunday helping in the search. That day, those who know Orlando agreed the teen likely made it to shore, but got caught in the surf trying to bring his kayak to safety. Orlando had only recently bought the craft, with money earned from his job working at a co-op on the island.
“He’s not the kind of person that would just let it go, we can imagine he went after it,” Addison writes.
Lake told Peace Arch News her son’s passion for the outdoors and solitary sports was evident at an early age. From the time he was three he had the patience to fish “for hours,” she said. The commitment inspired Water’s Edge, one of several paintings Lake created of her son.
Lake last saw Orlando in April, when the two went for dinner and then got a hotel room and watched a Harry Potter movie together.
She remembers him talking to her about courses he wanted to take in the fall, and the focus he had on the sciences, “where his heart was.”
Describing her son as brilliant, funny and kind, Lake said the family will celebrate Orlando’s life when the time is right.
“It’s just an eventuality right now,” she said. “When we’re all ready for it, and we feel like the community are all ready for it.
“There’s a lot of people grieving and a lot of people putting out hope.”
– with files from Erin Haluschak