"You could just see his boots a little bit": Elijah Marsh volunteer recalls final moments
Monday, February 23, 2015, 12:57 PM - Dave Elines' voice cracked as he recalled the moment he knew the tiny pair of boots barely visible 'behind a small deck' was missing Toronto boy Elijah Marsh.
"He was just peaceful, lying there," Elines said in an interview with CBC Metro Morning, struggling to get the words out. "You could just see his boots a little bit, it was just in between two houses. He was pretty hard to see once you got around the deck, that's all I want to say around that."
As a steelworker in the middle of a labour dispute, Elines and several of his co-workers left the frigid conditions of their picket line to search for Marsh after hearing about it on the radio. The five bundled into Elines' truck and raced to the scene of the search.
"It was something we all felt we had to do," he added.
After checking in with police, the officers on location provided instructions on where to look for the missing toddler. Underneath stoops, beneath cars, behind trees, anywhere he could conceivably have crawled for warmth as the temperature dipped into the minus-20 range, the police asked that these places be the focus.
"I didn't think we should be going in backyards, so we were just walking, Elines recalls. "I was checking garbage cans, stuff like that, looking in cars where you could see he could climb in."
Volunteers and police were everywhere, he said, but it was he who spotted the boots behind a deck, and he rushed to put his coat on Elijah and frantically called for his friend.
"I had my coat on him by then, and I was sort of screaming. He came and put his coat on him," he said.
The police were on the scene "in less than two seconds."
"This is so hard for you," Matt Galloway said, CBC morning host.
"Yeah ... a lot worse for the families I'm sure," Elines replied, his straining voice on the edge of breaking. Then added: "There was loads of volunteers from everywhere. Everybody was doing what they had to do. That's maybe the hard thing to say."
It was too late for Elijah. He was pronounced dead hours later.
And of all those who sought him in the snow and the inhuman cold, only Elines and his friend can know what Elijah looked like at the moment of a rescue that would prove to be in vain.
"Me and Burt only maybe saw him for less than two minutes, but we'll probably see that picture of him that's been on TV for the next 20 years in our minds," his tortured voice says on the radio. "I don't think we'll ever get rid of that."