Officials warn of the dangers around the water over the summer months, when thousands flock to B.C. lakes, rivers and beaches. (Black Press Media file photo)

Officials warn of the dangers around the water over the summer months, when thousands flock to B.C. lakes, rivers and beaches. (Black Press Media file photo)

Dozens of people die in B.C. waters each summer: Here’s how to not be one of them

After drowning incident at Thetis Lake, LifeSaving Society offers tips for staying safe

This summer, emergency crews will be called to dozens of drowning incidents at lakes, rivers and beaches around the province.

And after a drowning incident at Thetis Lake earlier the month, caution around water is – or should be – top of mind for many heading into the long weekends of the summer, says Dale Miller, executive director for the BC and Yukon branch of the Lifesaving Society.

The most recent data available for B.C. reveals 79 water-related fatalities recorded in B.C. in 2015, and 60 in 2016.

“The biggest myth probably is, ‘It wont happen to me,’” said Miller. “Everybody goes out expecting good weather and sunny skies, clear water, calm water… and unfortunately things can go wrong quite quickly and unexpectedly.”

And in the summertime, things go wrong pretty frequently – 64 per cent of drownings occur between May and September, and 35 per cent of them happen in lakes or ponds.

“Thetis Lake has some dropoffs people should know about it,” Miller said. “It gets deep quite quickly, and that’s a risk, especially if someone is not a competent swimmer.”

READ ALSO: Crews respond to non-fatal drowning at Thetis Lake

READ ALSO: Paramedic who saved drowning boy at Langford pool hopes others learn CPR

While 26 per cent of B.C. drowning incidents happen during aquatic activities like swimming, even more – 33 per cent – happen while people are boating, specifically on powerboats. Of the boating-related drowning incidents in B.C. each year, 58 per cent of victims were on a powerboat.

Data also suggests that young males are the most vulnerable: 77 per cent of drowning victims are male, and 26 per cent of drowning victims are between 20 and 34 years old.

“Definitely avoid mixing alcohol with swimming or boating,” said Miller.

“Drinking throws off your judgment,” he added. “Combine that young male bravado with a bit of alcohol…that’s why we see that young males are the most susceptible to drowning.”

READ ALSO: Warning issued as swimmer dies, boater missing this week in B.C. waters

Miller is quick to point out that even the most experienced swimmers can, and do, drown.

“Once they get out into a lake or open water it’s quite different. There are a lot of risk factors that could take a good swimmer down to a struggling swimmer,” Miller said. “Sometimes it’s just overreaching their limits – swimming farther than they are able to, or maybe they didn’t expect the cold water.

“Cold water can also create cramps, and even an excellent swimmer, if their legs cramp up, it’s very hard to keep their head above water,” he added.

Miller also explained the “panic effect” brought on by cold water. “If people are thrown into the water suddenly, there’s that gasp reflex, and if the gasp is taken underwater that drowning process can start very quickly,” he said.

READ ALSO: Two-year-old involved in Chilliwack pool drowning has died

READ ALSO: Near drowning captured on popular B.C. river

But not all heed the organization’s life saving advice: wear a life-jacket, take swimming lessons and avoid consuming alcohol on or near the water.

And accidents are still possible for those who do take precautions.

When things go wrong, Miller said jumping in the water to save a drowning person should be a last resort. Instead, he emphasizes the “reach, throw, row, go” rule.

Option one is to reach with a life-jacket, branch, pool noodle or whatever is available. The next option is throwing something to help them float – a life ring, a Styrofoam cooler, anything that will give them the ability to keep their head above water. “Rowing” to the drowning person is the next option – using some sort of boat or vessel to reach them.

Finally, “going” to them is the last resort – but if you choose to go, ensure you have a flotation device with you, to avoid being pushed below the surface during the rescue.

“Sometimes the person who goes in becomes the victim,” Miller said.



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

North Saanich Municipal Hall. The District released its annual report last week. (Peninsula News Review)
Pig shelter at Sandown Agricultural Lands comes down

North Saanich warned centre of stop-work order and possible fine

The Greater Victoria Women’s Transition House Society provides an essential service and has only seen an uptick in need since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Pixabay)
Greater Victoria women’s shelter adds second safe harbour

Costs soar as need does for Greater Victoria Women’s Transition House Society

The family of Iris McNeil, shown here with members of her family, has launched a petition to deny parole for the man who murdered McNeil in 1997. (Family photo)
Family fights killer’s release from Metchosin institution

Shortreed serving an indeterminate sentence at William Head Institution

A driver stopped by Saanich police following a road rage incident on April 15 was found to be impaired, in violation of a license restriction and in a damaged vehicle. They received a 90-day driving prohibition and a 30-day vehicle impound. (Saanich Police Traffic Safety Unit/Twitter)
Driver stopped on Pat Bay Highway after road rage reports fails breathalyzer test: police

Several witnesses reported driver to Saanich police, school officer intercepted

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: Lookout Lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier John Horgan booked to get AstraZeneca shot Friday

‘Let’s show all British Columbians that the best vaccine is the one that’s available to you now,’ he said

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canada’s incoming supply of Moderna vaccine slashed in half through end of April

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about the province’s COVID-19 vaccine plans during a news conference at the legislature in Victoria. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
P.1 variant likely highest in B.C. due to more testing for it: Dr. Henry

Overall, just under 60% of new daily cases in the province involve variants

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you have a plan in place in the event of a tsunami?

Tsunamis have claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people between 1998… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 13

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

An armed officer walks outside Cerwydden Care on Cowichan Lake Road near Skinner Road Wednesday, April 14 around 5:30 p.m. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Police standoff at Duncan apartment ends peacefully

Officers surround building as homeowner held in apartment for nearly four hours by adult son

Hwy. 4 was shut down in both directions for 10 hours on March 23 as a rock bluff was blasted as part of Kennedy Hill’s ongoing construction. Commuters can expect five more 10 hour closures on five consecutive Wednesdays beginning April 28. (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Five 10-hour Pacific Rim highway closures planned in the next 6 weeks

Closures needed for rock blasting as part of the Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement project.

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Most Read