St. Pete family mourns Haitian man who became part of their family

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A St Petersburg family is dealing with the devastating loss of a young Haitian man they welcomed into their home.

Authorities say 19-year-old Nikenson Cenatus apparently drowned at the North Beach area of Ft. Desoto Park on Saturday.

Cenatus came to live with Gabrielle Berthelot back in 2009. He had traveled to the Bay area to get medical help. He had a broken hip, couldn’t walk without crutches, and was in a lot of pain. Two years later, with surgeries and support, he was able to walk on his own, was attending school, had a job, and learned English.

Berthelot, 88 years old, and her family helped care for Cenatus and thought of him as part of their family. They called him “Son-Son.”

Authorities with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office say Cenatus was at the beach Saturday with a church group when he went into the water. At some point, others in the group started looking for him and someone spotted him floating in the water. He was pulled to the beach and given CPR, but later died at an area hospital.

“We’re still numb. We’re still in shock. Son-son was such a warm, young, vibrant young man with, you know, a big future,” said Linda Berthelot, who Cenatus used to call his aunt.

The Berthelots say they will have some type of memorial service for Cenatus here, before sending either his body or possibly his ashes back to Haiti. He does leave behind a mother and several siblings in Haiti, who he was helping to support every month.

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