Spike in drownings prompts warning
Aug 24, 2012 / 2:49 pm
The BC Coroners Office is issuing a warning to water lovers in advance of the Labour Day long weekend following a spike in drownings in the province.
Since July 1, 34 people have drowned in recreational incidents in the province, an increase of more than 50 per cent over last year when 22 people drowned during July and August.
In 2010, 24 people drowned over that same span.
According to Coroner, Barbara McLintock, the highest number of drownings, 14, have occurred in the Southern Interior.
Six of those drownings have occurred in the Okanagan, four in Okanagan Lake and one each in Skaha and Gallagher lakes.
Nearly half of the overall deaths (15) have occurred in lakes, 11 in rivers, six in the ocean and two in swimming pools.
McLintock says people need to exercise greater caution around provincial lakes, rivers and the ocean coastline.
"Investigation into these deaths is ongoing in all cases," says McLintock.
"It is clear, however, that some of them could have been prevented through better water safety measures."
McLintock says there are several safety precautions people should take around the water, including:
- Always wear a properly fitting Personal Flotation Device (PFD) when engaged in boating or tubing activities. If you are suddenly thrown into cold and/or rough water, it may often be impossible to find a PFD and put it on, even if you had one in the boat with you. Children, non-swimmers and weak swimmers should also wear a PFD when wading or playing in the water at a river or lakeside.
- Alcohol and water-related activities do not mix, any more than alcohol and driving do. Alcohol impairs your co-ordination and judgment, and this substantially adds to the risk inherent in swimming or boating. Impairment by alcohol or drugs is also often a contributing factor in cases in which someone has accidentally fallen into water from shore.
- Be aware of the water conditions where you are planning your activities. Check the weather forecast before heading out, and also do a visual inspection of the area. Do not head blindly down a river or stream without being aware of the water conditions further downstream.
- If you are hosting visitors from another province or country, ensure that they are informed about the conditions that prevail in the lake or river you are visiting. Warn them about steep drop-offs, rapids and any other hazards.
- Never dive into unknown waters. Unexpectedly shallow water or hidden obstacles underwater can easily prove fatal. Diving from cliffs or from other great heights is an exceptionally high-risk activity.
- Always supervise children anywhere near water. Pre-school-aged children can drown in only a few centimetres of water, and the drowning is often silent. Proper supervision for children of this age involves always having them within arm's length of a responsible adult.
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