07/21/2013 06:25 EDT | Updated 09/20/2013 05:12 EDT

Drowning Deaths Up In B.C., Officials Warn


With the drowning of two young men this weekend, officials say 2013 is shaping up to be one of the worst years in recent memory for accidental drownings.

A 21-year-old international student drowned while swimming in Thetis Lake in Victoria on Saturday.

That same day — which marked the start of drowning prevention week — a 19-year-old died after getting caught in the current after falling off his raft on the Similkameen River.

Wendy Schultenkamper, education director for the Lifesaving Society BC and Yukon, says there have already been 43 drowning deaths in 2013, compared with 25 at this time last year.

Still, she says the numbers have decreased about 20 to 30 per cent since the 1990s.

"Back in those days we used to have in excess of 90 to 100 drownings," Schultenkamper said. "Now we're down anywhere from 60 to 80 drownings per year, and ideally we'd like to see even less than that, as most drownings are preventable."

Schultenkamper says it's important to get familiar with any new water area before going in. Lifejackets are also essential, especially for young children or activities such as rafting or boating, she added.

Meanwhile, the search has been called off for missing camper Raymond Salmen, believed to have drowned in Harrison Lake in early June.

An Idaho couple equipped with high-tech search technology has been unable to locate the body. Gene and Sandy Ralston travelled to B.C. at the request of the family.

But the area of the lake where searchers believe Salmen's body is resting is very rocky, making it impossible for the Ralstons' side-scan sonar system to locate it, said Neil Brewer with Kent-Harrison Search and Rescue.

The water is also murky, so their remote operated vehicle wouldn't be able to see the body, he added.

The search was called off early Sunday afternoon.

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