08/22/2013 12:27 EDT | Updated 10/22/2013 05:12 EDT

Man's body pulled from Cowichan River, woman still missing

The B.C. Coroners Service is investigating the death of an elderly man whose body was recovered from the Cowichan River as the search for his female companion continues.

The 84-year-old man’s body was pulled from the river east of Skutz Falls on Tuesday evening.

Witnesses say he was fishing from the shore while a woman, who hasn’t been located, floated on a raft nearby.

"We're searching the river banks right now and the waterways to determine if we can locate the lady who was attributed to being with the gentleman before he was located in the water,” said RCMP Sgt. Wes Olsen.

The water in the area isn’t deep but the current is swift, and experienced divers say the rapids can be deadly.

"Just the amount of water that's being pushed through that small narrow opening can overturn people and cause them to drown,” said RCMP Const. Jim Preston with the RCMP’s Underwater Recovery Team.

Preventable deaths

According to the Lifesaving Society, 53 people had drowned in B.C. this year before this latest incident — up 20 per cent from the same time last year.

The victims are overwhelmingly male and 34 per cent of those who have died are between 18 and 24 years old.

"And almost all of these deaths would appear to be preventable, which is why we find it frustrating,” said Barb McClintock with the B.C. Coroners Service.

She says the summer’s hot and sunny weather may be a factor.

"Partly it's just a factor of exposure,” McClintock said.

“This has been such a nice summer that started so early, that you have a lot of people going out to the lake and the beach and the river and the creek."

Police say the latest death is a reminder that lifejackets are important even in shallow water on a calm day.

"As we see here with the river, it might not be deep here in a lot of areas but it's swift, and if you get taken away by the current, if you don't have a flotation device on it's hard to keep your head above the water. Just be careful,” Olsen said.