Drownings soar, caution urged
The waters of B.C. have claimed 34 lives so far this summer— a 50 per cent increase in drowning deaths from 2011 (22 drownings) during the same July 1 to Aug. 21 time span.
In 2010, the number of drownings for the full two-month period was 24.
Due to the spike in drownings, the BC Coroners Service is urging the public to be more careful when in and on water.
The highest number of drownings — 14 — has occurred in the southern Interior region of the province, while nine people have died on Vancouver Island and five people have perished in northern B.C.
Almost half the deaths — 15 — occurred in lakes. Another 11 occurred in rivers, with six in the ocean and two in swimming pools.
Of those who died, only five were female.
One child under the age of 10 and one teenager were among the fatalities. In contrast, five of those who died were over the age of 70 and another six were in their sixties.
Seven persons died while swimming and another seven died from falling into water unexpectedly.
Others were boating, attempting to cliff-dive or rafting or tubing. There have been no scuba-diving deaths this summer.
•Always wear a properly fitting life-jacket or personal flotation device (PFD). 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.
• Always supervise children anywhere near water. Preschool-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 having them within arm’s length of a responsible adult.
• Alcohol and water-related activities do not mix any more than do alcohol and driving. Alcohol impairs your co-ordination and judgment and substantially adds to the risk inherent in swimming or boating.
• Be aware of the area where you are planning your activities. Check the weather forecast before heading out and 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 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.