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Posted: July 7, 2017

Take extra care around water: BC Coroners

With an exceptionally hot weekend approaching for much of the province, the BC Coroners Service is urging residents and visitors to take extra care when they are near rivers, lakes or the ocean.

While preliminary statistics from 2016 show a decline in the number of accidental drownings, the BC Coroners Service responded to six drowning incidents in the past week, including ones involving swimming, boating and falls from a height. The statistics consistently show a spike in drowning deaths each summer, with the numbers beginning to increase in May and continuing to rise through August 2016.

“I cannot stress too strongly the need for all recreational boaters – including paddlers – to wear a properly fitted personal floatation device (PFD), not just have one in the boat with them,” said chief coroner Lisa Lapointe.” Additionally, children, non-swimmers and weak swimmers should wear a PFD anytime they’re in or near the water. People don’t realize how quickly they can get into trouble – particularly when they’re in unfamiliar waters.”

The BC Coroners Service emphasizes the need for visitors from other countries, or even other regions, to understand the dangers that may lurk in or near B.C.’s lakes and rivers. These include sudden drop-offs into deep water, unexpected underwater obstacles and unstable or slippery rock edges above cliffs and waterfalls. Waters in B.C. are also frequently much colder than in other countries or provinces. If you are hosting someone from out of town, be sure to warn them of these potential hazards.

A further key point is to avoid mixing alcohol with swimming, boating or any water-based activity. Impairment greatly increases the chances of an accidental drowning.

The preliminary report for 2016 shows a total of 47 accidental drownings, the lowest number in the past decade, down from 80 in 2015. More than one-third of those deaths occurred in the Interior Health Authority region, which includes the Kootenays.

Fatal drownings were most common in the summer months, peaking at an average of 13.6 deaths per year in August; 79.6% were male, and 20.4% were female.

Nineteen to 29-year-olds accounted for the largest proportion of deaths (23.7%), followed by 50-59 year olds (17.0%). Alcohol and/or drugs contributed to 40.1% of drowning deaths between 2008 and 2015.

Most deaths occurred in lakes/ponds (30.9%), rivers/creeks (30.0%), or the ocean (20.3%).

The lakes/ponds with the highest number of deaths were Okanagan Lake (24), Shuswap Lake (12), Kalamalka Lake (10) and Kootenay Lake (six).

There have been eight drownings in the Columbia River between 2008 and 2016.

For more statistics

Lead image: Lake Windermere, like Columbia Lake, Koocanusa, Moyie, Tie, Rosen and Whiteswan Lakes, along with the many, many other waterways in the region, will be getting busier as the hot weather lingers. Please play safely and wisely. e-KNOW file photo


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