Parents remember "bright boy" who drowned while releasing turtle

Photo: Tapio family
Photo: Tapio family(WBAY)
Published: Jun. 26, 2019 at 1:08 AM CDT
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Dylun Tapio was on the verge of celebrating his 13th birthday when he and his brothers embarked on a journey to release a turtle in a retention pond at a Kaukuna apartment complex.

Young Dylun, an animal enthusiast, would not make it to that birthday celebration.

"I didn't want to have to be buying him a casket for his birthday tomorrow," says Jason Tapio, Dylun's father.

Police believe Dylun had been in the pond for up to two hours before he was recovered late Tuesday.

"Dylun was a bright young little boy. He would've been thirteen tomorrow. He loved dinosaurs, wrestling and spending time with his brothers and he loved drawing he was very very artistic," says father Jason Tapio.

"He loved animals. He loved dinosaurs, he loves frogs. He loves anything to do with nature. I would always tell him he's going to be my paleontologist," said Tia Tapio, Dylun Tapio's mom.

At about 9:40 p.m., Kaukauna Police and Firefighters were called to Lamplighter Drive. They arrived to find several people looking in a pond on the grounds of Lamplighter Apartments.

Officers learned that four brothers--ages 7, 11, 11 and 12--had come to the retention pond to release a turtle. One of the boys was on the bank of the pond when he saw two of his brothers struggling in the water.

The boy yelled for help and two apartment residents came running to the pond to help. A woman jumped into the pond and pulled the two boys to safety.

Twelve-year-old Dylun was also in the pond, but no one saw him go under. Rescue crews from Kaukauna Fire, Vandenbroek Fire and the Outagamie County Sheriff's Office Dive Team arrived and started searching the pond. They pulled Dylun from the water and took him to a local hospital.

Dylun was pronounced dead at the hospital.

"The turtle was trying to cross the road and a good a Samaritan ended up pulling over and grabbed the turtle and put it in the yard, and I thought it was a piece of trash. Dylun asked me if it was OK if he could bring it down to the pond and I told him it was OK and ... then this happened," says Tia Tapio.

The family has set up a GoFundMe account for Dylun's medical bills and funeral.


Jason Tapio would like to see a fence go up at the pond.

"If you have to have fences around your pool at your homes – why don't you have to have them around these retention ponds? They're a lot bigger. They're mandatory at a lot of these places. There should be some more safety," Tapio says. "I'm not saying it totally would've stopped it but it would've been a lot harder for them to get through and get to the water."

The drowning remains under investigation.

"I don't know. They didn't say if he slipped. I don't know what made him go in the water," says Tia Tapio.



Police say a 13-year-old boy pulled from a pond in Kaukauna has died.

Emergency crews were called to find a missing teen just before 10:00 p.m. Tuesday, at the Lamplight Apartments on Lamp Lighter Drive.

Kaukauna firefighters say they were told a group of kids had been playing in and around a pond near the apartments when the 13-year-old disappeared.

Kaukauna and Vandenbroek firefighters searched the water, while police officers searched the area around the apartments.

Firefighters say they were able to recover the teen from the water, and he was taken to a hospital. Police told Action 2 News Wednesday morning that the teen had passed away.

Action 2 News will continue to follow this developing story.