BRITISH COLUMBIA

Thetis Lake, Similkameen River Drownings Raise Safety Questions

07/22/2013 11:26 EDT | Updated 09/21/2013 05:12 EDT
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VANCOUVER - A run of hot weather across British Columbia may be partly to blame for a spike in drownings in the province this summer, but the past weekend was especially deadly.

Two men drowned in separate incidents on Saturday, and a third man remains in critical condition in hospital after being pulled unconscious from a Metro Vancouver lake on Sunday.

The Lifesaving Society of BC and Yukon said there have been 44 drownings in B.C. this year, compared to 30 in the same time last year. Forty of the victims were male, and a majority were between 18 and 24 years old.

UPDATE: A 24-year-old man who needed CPR after swimming in Sasamat Lake on Sunday afternoon has died, Global News reports.

Dale Miller, the society's executive director, said while drowning victims are typically male, it is unusual to see them in such high numbers this year. He also said many of the youth died after engaging in dangerous activities such as cliff diving.

"That's unfortunately the invincibility of youth and people just doing some things that are beyond their limits," he said in an interview Monday. "When they find out it's beyond their limits, it's too late."

In the latest occurrence, a 24-year-old man needed CPR on the beach after being rescued from Sasamat Lake in Port Moody on Sunday afternoon.

Port Moody deputy fire chief Gord Parker said his crews always see more waterside rescues and other outdoor accidents as residents try to escape soaring temperatures by spending the day at the beach.

On Saturday, a 19-year-old man drowned in the Similkameen River in the south Okanagan after falling from his raft and being swept away by strong currents.

A second man died Saturday in Thetis Lake, about 10 kilometres northwest of Victoria.

Miller said it's important for people to always have life jackets on hand, even if they don't intend to go into the water.

"Those who drown typically do not ever intend to go into the water — they figured they would step from the dock into the boat, and later from the boat into the dock and that would be it," he said. "But when water conditions are rough, or weather conditions change, that's when the incidents will occur and we'll see the drownings occur as well."

Miller said he expects the hot, sunny weather to stay for the remainder of the summer. Noting that this week is National Drowning Prevention Week, he advised people who intend to participate in group water activities to take basic first aid. He also encouraged adults to keep a close eye on children.

"We're talking vigilant supervision, not while reading or texting," he said. "For children, we need really active supervision." (The Canadian Press, CKNW)

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