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Death of Ladner man shines spotlight on float home safety

WATCH: A recent drowning in Delta has focused new attention on the small community of float home owners in BC. Randene Neill reports.

The death of an elderly man in Ladner has focused new attention on float home owners in Metro Vancouver.

The man, who neighbours have identified as Everett McGowin, jumped into the water trying to save his wife after she fell off a boat moored next to the couple’s float home.

Several parts of the region have float home communities, including Ladner, Richmond, North Vancouver, and Langley as well as Vancouver’s Granville Island and Coal Harbour.

Still, there are fewer than 300 float homes in Metro Vancouver.

Realtors who specialize in float home sales say the price of float homes may appear cheap at first glance, but there are extra costs like strata and moorage fees that can add up. Still, float homes are generally cheaper than waterfront homes.

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There are few rules and regulations in place regarding safety. According to the B.C. Float Home Association, the only safety equipment required for float homes is a life ring. Most communities, however, go further than that.

“We have ladders…if you fall off, you can swim to a ladder,” says realtor Ricki Willing. “We all have life rings with our homes and we have fire extinguishers.”

“We have all these heated cement double-wide docks,” says fellow realtor Doug Taylor. “They have tremendous grit, they heat up, there’s no ice on them.”

Despite the lack of regulations, float home accidents are few and far between.

“It happens occasionally that somebody might fall in, but it’s not a regular occurrence or anything like that,” says Willing.

Monday’s tragedy was a first for B.C.’s float home community. Willing says it serves as an important reminder that residents should always be careful when on a dock.

-with files from Randene Neill and Amy Judd