The family of a talented young Rwandan-Canadian former athlete and business personality is fearing for the worst as the search for the 24-year old continues four days after he reportedly went for a swim on Sunset Beach, Lake Ontario and never returned.
Hundreds of people in Rwanda and Canada who knew Steve Nkusi took to social media to express their shock and fear for the worst as emergency crews from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), NRPS Marine Unit, St. Catharine’s Fire, Trenton Search and Rescue as well as the Canadian Coast Guard, continue to scour the waters with the hope of finding Nkusi, amid the outpouring.
Nkusi, a former competitive track athlete from Ottawa who also worked for the Canadian government and had ambitious business plans after graduating from the University of Ottawa, is said to have jumped in to the water for a swim in L. Ontario, from a boat hired by a group of young people in their 20’s but never returned
“At approximately 6:00pm on Saturday August 21, 2021, 1 District (St. Catharines) uniform officers were called to Sunset Beach in St. Catharines following the report of a missing male in the water,” Naigara Regional Police Service (NRPS) posted on August 22, without naming the person but people on social media were quick to mention that it was the amiable Nkusi. Many are devastated beyond measure.
“Initial investigation has revealed that a group in their early 20’s had rented a boat which was stopped just off shore when one of the male entered the water. Emergency crews responded, including uniform police, NRPS Marine Unit, St. Catharines Fire, Trenton Search and Rescue as well as the Canadian Coast Guard. An extensive search was unable to locate the male,” they added.
According to CBC News, Nkusi’s family is now fearing for the worst but are hoping against hope that police, who have been scanning the waters at Sunset Beach for the past four days, will soon share some details on his fate.
“It’s like a nightmare every morning,” Nkusi’s sister, Sandrine Mugeni, told CBC News in a phone interview on Tuesday morning, describing the incident as a big loss for the family. His family members including Mugeni had arrived from Ottawa and other parts of Ontario and Quebec to the search area where they patiently wait.
CBC News reporting from the scene said that his family has since confirmed his identity and wanted to share more about his life, as they sat along the shore of the beach Monday, watching RCMP boats in the distance. Nine of his relatives consoled each other, some in tears when discussing Nkusi.
His father, Gilbert Nkusi, a businessman who returned to Rwanda in 2019 after 18 years living abroad, on Monday changed his profile photo on Facebook, putting that of his missing son and is said to be on his way to the North American country with his wife.
Nkusi, who represented Canada in high jump at the 2015 Junior Pan American Games, was born in Kigali, Rwanda, and grew up in the Orléans area of Ottawa, his family said. He attended École élémentaire catholique des Voyageurs and École secondaire catholique Garneau.
He graduated from the University of Ottawa with a degree in finance this year after working with the federal government while in school, his family said.
Apart from being an athlete, Nkusi had recently started modelling, his sister said. Angie’s Models & Talent International (AMTI), which has offices in Ottawa and Toronto, said it brought him on as a model in March. On social media, many described Nkusi as talented, loving, kind and warm.
Reports say Nkusi was celebrating a friend’s birthday. Eye witnesses say they saw Nkusi struggle when he entered the water and soon he was disappearing. They tried to throw a life-jacket, but he couldn’t catch it.
Search efforts, including sonar, underwater cameras and divers, but the efforts are yet to yield any results.
Many young Rwandans who were close to Nkusi continue to share messages of pain and grief on different social media platforms, with many stating that they are shattered by his predicament. #RIPSteve has been trending for 3 days despite his death not being confirmed. A GoFundMe page set up to support his family has so far raised $56,602, surpassing the target of $50, 000.
Additional reporting and photos from CBC News.