Boy drowns releasing turtle into pond just before 13th birthday, Wisconsin family says

Dylun Tapio, 12, found a turtle in his yard after someone moved it off the road and — not wanting the animal to be killed — he asked to move it to a nearby pond, his mother told WBAY.

The boy loved all animals — dinosaurs, frogs, or just about anything in nature — and one day he may have become a paleontologist, Tia Tapio told the Green Bay, Wisconsin TV station.

So, Dylun and his three brothers, ages 7, 11, and 11, went to release the turtle into a retention pond at a nearby Kaukauna, Wisconsin apartment complex, Kaukauna police said in a Facebook post. Three of the boys were in the pond when the fourth brother standing along the bank saw two of them struggling in the water, authorities said. He screamed for help.

That’s when a mother and daughter who live at the apartment complex came running to help, according to WLUK. The daughter jumped into the water, rescuing two of the boys, the Green Bay TV station reported.

But no one saw Dylun at first, authorities said. He was missing.

Kaukauna and Vandenbroek firefighters and the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Office dive team searched the pond for almost two hours before finding Dylun, authorities said. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Authorities are still investigating the death.

“Dylun left this earth doing what he loved — helping animals and being a big protective brother,” his family said on a GoFundMe page.

On Thursday, Dylun would have turned 13, family members said. A family member told McClatchy that they planned to release balloons Thursday to honor his life and birthday.

“I didn’t want to have to be buying him a casket for his birthday,” Jason Tapio, Dylun’s father, told WBAY.

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Chacour Koop is a Real-Time reporter based in Kansas City. Previously, he reported for the Associated Press, Galveston County Daily News and Daily Herald in Chicago.