by Dave Preston
A 50 per cent increase in the number of drownings in British Columbia this summer has prompted the BC Coroners Service to warn the public to use greater caution near water.
Statistics from the coroners service show that 34 people have drowned in recreational incidents in the province from July 1 to August 21.
“This represents an increase of more than 50 per cent when compared to 2011,” said Coroner Barbara McLintock.
Last year, 22 people drowned in B.C. during July and August. In 2010, there were 24 recorded drownings in the province.
While nine people drowned on Vancouver Island and another five drowned in Northern B.C., the greatest number of drownings, 14, occurred in the Southern Interior, according to McLintock.
A total of 15 of the deaths occurred in lakes. Another 11 happened in rivers, six in the ocean and two in swimming pools.
McLintock provided other statistics about this summer’s drowning deaths:
- Five victims were female;
- One child under 10 died;
- One teenager drowned;
- Five of those who drowned were over 70 years of age;
- Six drowning victims were in their 60s;
- Seven people drowned while swimming;
- Seven died after falling into water unexpectedly;
- Other deaths involved boating, cliff diving or rafting/tubing.
“Investigation into these deaths is ongoing in all cases,” said McLintock. “It is clear, however, that some of them could have been prevented through better water safety measures.”
Water Safety Tips
- 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.
- For further information about water safety tips, visit websites putout by such organizations as the Canadian Red Cross and the Lifesaving Society.