Tony Wilson remembers saving his son’s life when the boy was only three-years-old.
The family was out camping on the Skeena River at Kispiox, where Tony and his wife and five children are from, and Frank was sitting on the butt end of Tony’s fishing pole which was being held in one place by a pile of rocks.
Frank kicked a rock or maybe the fishing pole itself and the fishing rod acted like a bat, flinging the young boy into the water.
Frank didn’t reappear above water for six minutes, said Tony.
Tony tied the end of a fishing net to a tree and then to his wrist and when he saw Frank’s head pop up, he knew he didn’t have much time.
“I jumped on top of him and grabbed him by the hair and the current grabbed me and I hit the sides of the rocks,” said Tony.
“When he came up, [he was] back up like nothing happened.”
Tony pulled himself out and joked with the boy about taking a swim, making Frank laugh. He and his family walked the four miles back to Kispiox and that was the last time they went fishing on the Skeena River at Kispiox.
Wilson says he left his fishing gear behind and never went back to pick it up.
“I could’ve lost him when he was three so he survived 30 years. [Now] he’s gone. Every day I miss him,” said Tony.
On June 28, 2011, 33-year-old Frank died from a gastrointestinal hemorrhage by a natural disease process, according to the coroner’s report, which was recently given to Tony.
Tony said it’s difficult to get closure when doctors can’t say why his son died.
The coroner’s report classified Frank’s death as natural.
Toxicology tests came back negative for drugs and alcohol.
And the detailed autopsy report doesn’t list a cause of death as it says his organs were normal.
“His heart and lungs were healthy,” said Tony, adding he was surprised at how his son died.
Dehydration of some organs was noted but said to be a natural part of what happens to them after death.
Tony said the coroner told him some pieces of Frank’s organs had been kept – the doctor said that was so they could examine them more.
On the day he died, Frank was at his mom’s place where he was living.
From what Frank’s mom and siblings said, Frank did complain about his stomach, said Tony. He had complained his chest was in pain and he had a hard time breathing, said Tony.
Prior to saying that, he asked for some Tylenol so Tony gave him some, which he regrets, believing it may have increased Frank’s bleeding.
“He just kept quiet and would barely even talk,” said Tony. “It was almost like he went to say something but couldn’t speak up.”
Usually Frank was really active, really fast and strong and spent a lot of time playing video games.
He couldn’t read or write and he was on a disability allowance but he could play those games easily, said Tony.
On that day, his mom went out to the store to get a couple of things and returned to find him not responding.
She went to Tony’s place – Tony lives next door – and told him something was wrong with Frank as he wasn’t breathing, said Tony.
He hurried over to see his son.
“I picked up his left arm. It was not that cold, it wasn’t really stiff yet. I put my hand on his chest and it was really cold,” said Tony. “To me he was already gone.”
Frank had his shirt, pants and socks on when his mom left to go to the store, but when he was found, he was laying down without his shirt or socks, said Tony.
“He must have taken them off because he was burning up,” said Tony.
“Because we’re victims, we do not know how to ask for help, even if we’re in pain we are not able to say it,” said Tony, referring to his time in a residential school and his children’s time in foster care.
We all need to be more active in the way we take care of our families, said Tony.
“If he went through some kind of help through the hospital, he probably would’ve been alive today,” said Tony.
Frank hadn’t been in any fights so there’s nothing to pinpoint what happened, he said.
About five months after his son’s death, Tony took out all the photos of Frank, framed them and put them around the house.
After month or so he found he was thinking about Frank all the time and couldn’t sleep so he took them down.
Now they sit in the closet.
Frank’s mom wouldn’t let anyone touch or remove Frank’s jacket that was left by the door – it was the one Frank always wore when he went out.
Finally, Tony asked her if he could wash it as it was dusty. He did that and then put it back with a plastic bag around it to keep it clean.
Tony said life is more important now and he’s noticing things like how he treats his four children and talks to them.
Time with them can be short and you don’t want to miss things, he said.
He wants to take his older son, Tony Jr., who he calls Sunshine, out to fish like he used to do with Frank.
Being out in nature is freedom and he wants to take his family out camping like they did way back when Frank was a kid, back to Kispiox like the time he saved Frank’s life, he said.