Editor’s note: The RCMP originally said Alberta Fish and Wildlife officials were called to the scene Wednesday for the search. They said Thursday to say Environment and Parks officials were involved in the search. The RCMP also said the men were floating on inner tubes, but said Thursday the men were on “objects similar to round inflatables.”
The search for a man believed to have drowned in Sylvan Lake resumed on Thursday.
The incident happened on Wednesday at around 3:30 p.m.
RCMP said the victim and another man were floating on round inflatables in the central Alberta lake when a wave knocked them both off and into the water. One of the men was helped out of the water by people on a nearby dinghy, but the second man did not resurfaced.
“Following that, one of the occupants of the dinghy, a child, swam to shore for help,” an RCMP news release stated. “At no time were any children needing rescuing.”
Police said the two men were not were not wearing life-jackets at the time of the incident.
Tarik Radwan, who was visiting Sylvan Lake from Beaumont, said he witnessed the initial attempts to locate the missing man. He said all kinds of people helped with the search and that various types of watercraft were used in addition to the helicopter.
“We were standing on the other side of the beach and we kind of saw lots of ambulances coming,” Radwan told Global News. “While I was watching, there was kind of a rescue boat that brought one guy who was shivering.”
RCMP, Alberta Environment and Parks officers and firefighters from both Sylvan Lake and Red Deer helped search for the missing man until about 9 p.m. on Wednesday when the search was suspended due to a lack of daylight.
Kelly Carter, executive director of the Lifesaving Society Alberta & Northwest Territories, called situation “extremely tragic” and said it happens far too often.
The lifesaving society collects drowning statistics from across the country — while it takes time to compile the data, it also tracks media reported drownings. The Sylvan Lake drowning would be the 10th in Alberta this year.
Carter said about 80 per cent of drowning deaths in our province are men.
“Our highest drowning category right now in Alberta is young adults aged 20 to 34 years old,” Carter said.
“There’s two pieces there that kind of play together and you look at that and say there’s a problem and we need to change our behaviours around the water and how we think.”
Carter said inflatables and inner tubes can quickly lead to danger — he urged anyone using one to wear a life-jacket.
“This is one of the areas we see that there is a lot of rescues that happen,” Carter said, “where people are in an area they feel is safe or shallow and the wind picks up — they get blown to deeper water and they all of a sudden they can’t stand.
“People should always be prepared to wear a life-jacket when they’re on those inflatable because they never know where they’re going to end up.”
The lifesaving society published a drowning report with some startling statistics:
Carter said drowning deaths in Alberta have declined over the past few years. The number typically fluctuates between 40 to 50. Across Canada, there are four to 500 drowning deaths every year.
“We still have to remain vigilant. It can happen at any time.”
Officials said the beach would not be closed despite the ongoing search effort.
The town of Sylvan Lake, Alta., is located about 20 kilometres west of Red Deer, roughly halfway between Calgary and Edmonton.
With files from Kendra Slugoski, Global News.
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