Jacob Rutzen-Gibbs, 21, drowned in Alouette Lake in Maple Ridge last week, as he tried to make it back to shore.
"Someone told me drowning is the silent killer because it's not like it is in the movies. People aren't really screaming for help," said Jennifer Partridge in an interview with Kathryn Gretsinger on CBC Radio's The Early Edition.
Partridge and Rutzen-Gibbs were with friends when they arrived at Golden Ears Park in the afternoon. They had a barbecue on the beach before they headed out on their "floaties" - which they had tied up to the rope used to outline the swimming area of the lake, about 50 yards from shore.
Rutzen-Gibbs had decided to swim back from the floaties, and Partridge was just behind him when she heard him start calling for help.
"I went to help him, but because he's so tall, it was a struggle," said Partridge.
Every time Partridge tried to pull her 6'3'' friend out of the water, she felt herself sinking. She tried calling to the people on the shore for help, but no one came.
Partridge, short on breath, decided to leave Rutzen-Gibbs in the water and try to call for help.
After repeated panicked attempts to call 9-1-1, Partridge said she finally realized someone from Golden Ears Park patrol had called emergency services.
Partridge says the experience has changed the way she and her group of friends think about going into the water.
"I'm not saying 'Don't go to the beach', obviously," said Partridge, but she wants people to think twice about how strong their swimming skills are, whether there is a list of emergency contacts, and who if anyone has CPR and life-saving skills.
Partridge would also like to see some improvements to water safety at Alouette Lake.
She says she was surprised to see no life preservers on scene, and with limited cell phone service at the lake, she's also calling for the area where cell service is available to be clearly marked.
At least 46 people have died in B.C. waters this year, up from 30 the same time last year.
Officials say the run of hot weather across British Columbia may be partly to blame for the spike in drownings in the province this summer.
They are warning people never to mix alcohol with water sports, to take all necessary precautions, and to avoid risky activities like cliff jumping.