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Search at Wabamun Lake puts spotlight on water safety

The search continues west of Edmonton for a man who fell into Wabamun Lake Saturday afternoon while tire tubing, and never surfaced.

“Unfortunately what we have today is more of a shoreline search,” Sgt. Ian Gillan of Stony Plain RCMP said on Sunday. “We still have a vessel out on the lake doing a water search but given the lapse of time we are considering it a recovery mission today.”

RCMP say drugs and alcohol were not factors in Saturday’s incident at Wabamun Lake. Safety, however, was. The man was with two other people on the tube when it flipped, but was the only one not wearing a life jacket. 

 

The other two individuals were pulled out of the water, and taken to hospital, where they were treated for hypothermia. They have since been released. Their life jacket may have easily saved their lives, though – especially this early in the season, when water temperatures can get dangerously low.

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“If you were boating out on the Alberta lakes at this time of year, you really need to be wearing the correct equipment. That water is awful cold here,” Sgt. Gillan says, adding that survivability in these conditions is measured in minutes, not hours.

He explains that it doesn’t take very long for a person immersed in such cold water to begin losing the dexterity in their arms and legs – making a rescue more difficult.

“Even if someone throws you a line, you won’t even be able to swim out – especially your hands and feet, you’re going to have no movement in a very short time,” he says.

“Your core is going to shut down in 10 to 15 minutes. Survivability in this kind of water, you’re not looking at more than 30 minutes to an hour for anybody that’s not wearing protective clothing.”

Sgt. Gillan also has one piece of advice for those who are operating the boats: “if you have people who tell you ‘I don’t want to wear a life jacket, simply don’t take them.'”

According to the Red Cross, each year more than 200 Canadians who aren’t wearing a life jacket drown.

This is the second weekend in a row RCMP have been searching an Alberta Lake for someone. Last weekend, they were looking for two men who had been fishing on Coal Lake and never returned home. Police don’t believe either man was wearing a life-jacket.

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With files from Slav Kornik, Global News 

 

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