Authorities say coronavirus pandemic partly to blame for uptick in drownings in Quebec

Click to play video: 'Cap-Saint-Jacques drowning amounts to alarming total of 58 deaths in Quebec'
Cap-Saint-Jacques drowning amounts to alarming total of 58 deaths in Quebec
Cap-Saint-Jacques drowning amounts to alarming total of 58 deaths in Quebec – Jul 27, 2020

It’s been a very bad year for drownings in Quebec, according to Deputy Premier Genevieve Guilbeault.

“It’s a very worrying situation going on right now,” she said at a press conference Monday. “The last number I saw was 55 drownings, maybe 56 compared to less than 40 last year during the same period.”

Guilbeault pointed out that the coronavirus pandemic has forced many more Quebecers to spend their time off in the province. The weather has been hot, and well-supervised public pools are running at reduced capacity, pushing people to swim in lakes and rivers instead.

“People might be tempted to find some places to go swim and to freshen up, and they can go to places that are dangerous,” she said.

Monday morning, all was quiet in the area of Cap-Saint-Jacques where a 51-year-old Pincourt man drowned in front of his family on Saturday afternoon. It was a very different scene Sunday afternoon, as police boats and divers combed the waters for the man’s body. Sunday evening, the search was called off.

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Read more: Search for missing man called off after body recovered from Montreal river

DDO resident Perry Yunger was bringing his personal watercraft back into the Île Bizard boat launch Sunday evening when he came upon a frantic scene.

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“We noticed the fire trucks and cop cars flying everywhere around the boat launch,” he said. “Police boats came up to us and asked us if we saw anything.”

Police confirmed they removed a body from the water in Île Bizard after they received a 911 call around 5:30 Sunday evening.

Adam Di Fulvio of the Montreal Institute of Swimming believes everyone who gets in the water should know more about survival swimming.

“The majority of current swim programs are effective, but they can be better,” he told Global News.

Read more: Montrealer drowns in Val-David lake, while search continues for others missing in Quebec

He wants to see more emphasis put on things like learning to tread water for long periods, quickly identifying where to swim to get to safety, swimming endurance and other skills that can be useful if caught far from land.

“Adults can and should definitely be taking lessons, too. It’s never too late to learn,” he said.

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Authorities are advising extra caution, avoiding swimming alone and wearing a life-jacket if you’re not a strong swimmer.

“Every drowning is a drama to family, to friends,” said Guilbeault.

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