Undiagnosed tumour believed to be cause of South Surrey man’s drowning

Family grateful for international efforts to find answers for what led to Mele's sudden death in U.S. waters .

The family of well-known South Surrey real-estate developer John Mele have been informed that a previously undiagnosed brain tumour was the cause of his sudden death in the U.S. last week.

The 43-year-old, who drowned Aug. 1 while boating on Washington’s Osoyoos Lake, was diagnosed with a posterior fossa intracranial brain tumour following an autopsy, brother-in-law Gary Hawes told Peace Arch News Thursday, noting his family is grateful to authorities on both sides of the border, who took part in the search that led to answers.

According to Hawes, Mele and his family were unaware of the tumour, which was described as a “ticking time bomb” that was big enough to push against the brain stem, likely causing the father of three to black out while in the water.

A celebration of life for the father of three will be held Aug. 20 at 3 p.m., at Peace Portal Alliance Church, 15128 27B Ave.

Mele was well-known in the community for his business endeavors – he and friend Chuck Westgard operated Royal LePage Westgard Realty – and community work, including coaching youth baseball.

The noted family man was on the boat Aug. 1 with his three children, along with longtime friend Darren Mahaffey and his eldest son.

After doing a backflip off the boat into the lake, Mele did not resurface, Hawes said.

Mele’s body was discovered two days later after additional divers and high-tech services were called in to assist the local sheriff’s department.

According to Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers, the international collaborative effort between local and Canadian officials was not completely unprecedented.

“We work well with RCMP on a lot of things, but never a drowning. They sent divers down and their sonar equipment,” he said. “They were a huge help and we are extremely grateful to the RCMP for coming down.”

Hawes said Mele’s loved ones are indebted to the RCMP officers for their willingness to aid in the U.S. investigation.

“They came down with their high-tech sonar gear and found him Sunday evening after only being in the water for about 45 minutes. They found him very quickly,” Hawes said.

“The entire family, all our friends, (owe) just a huge debt to the RCMP. We were so proud and it gave you a patriotic feeling to see your guys come across the border and get the job done and provide the family with a sense of closure.”



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