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Recent drownings in Okanagan stark reminders of water safety

RCMP cautioning people after recent drownings

It was a tragic Thursday afternoon in the Okanagan, when a 65-year-old man drowned while swimming just steps from his lakeshore home.

Despite what RCMP call the best efforts of witnesses and emergency crews at the West Kelowna beach, the man’s death is the fourth fatal water-related incident in the Okanagan since Father’s Day.

The recent drownings are stark reminders to use extreme caution when on or near the water.

Read more: Body of missing North Okanagan man discovered by kayaker, Vernon, B.C., RCMP says

“Summers are a great time in the Okanagan to enjoy the many lakes in the area,” said Kelowna RCMP Const. Solana Pare.

“However, with the increased traffic on the lakes, there is an increase in risk in accidents and drownings.”

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Police are reminding residents and visitors that if they do choose to enjoy the water, to do so responsibly.

“We recommend that everybody takes the appropriate precautions to ensure they have a safe trip,” said Pare.

Water safety awareness event held in Penticton after drowning death
Water safety awareness event held in Penticton after drowning death

Drugs or alcohol can impair your decisions on the water, according to RCMP, who recommend wearing a lifejacket when necessary, and to let someone else know your plans for the day.

Jenna Sullivan of the Lifesaving Society agrees with those tips.

“One of the biggest things that people can do is being prepared,” said Sullivan.

“So that means being mentally prepared and also being prepared with the right safety equipment.”

Secondary drowning: What you need to know
Secondary drowning: What you need to know

Okanagan waters right now are dangerous, running high, fast and cold.

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“It changes the environment from what we were used to,” said Sullivan, “so any landmarks you were using last year that you had previously associated with being in a shallow depth now might be over your head.”

The society says children are the most at risk.

“Even in a controlled environment with a lifeguard, we ask parents to stay within arm’s reach of their children,” said Sullivan.

Father dies trying to rescue child at Okanagan waterfall on Father’s Day
Father dies trying to rescue child at Okanagan waterfall on Father’s Day

The society is also reminding would-be rescuers to not put yourself in harm’s way.

It can create an even more dire situation, which is what happened at Mill Creek Regional Park when a Lower Mainland dad died after rescuing his daughter.

It’s a reminder that even the best of times around water can quickly take a turn.

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