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Amid rash of B.C. drownings, the biggest risk in the water may be overconfidence: report

Health Matters: Lifesaving tips to prevent drowning
Dale Miller with the Lifesaving Society urges caution as many of us look to beat the heat by heading to local beaches and lakes, He shares some water safety tips that could save your life.

British Columbians may not be as good at swimming as they think they are, according to new report by BC Hydro.

The Crown utility, which manages a number of recreation sites around the province, said Friday it’s observed an increase in drowning or near-drowning incidents in recent years and cites overconfidence in swimming abilities as a factor.

“We found that many people overestimate their swimming abilities or take undue risks around the water,” BC Hydro’s Susie Rieder said.

The study found that 85 per cent of respondents describe themselves as experienced swimmers, but most are only in the water a few times each summer.

About 85 per cent have also not completed a formal swimming lesson in more than 10 years, while another 10 per cent said they’ve never completed a single lesson.

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22-year-old man drowns while swimming in Vedder River
22-year-old man drowns while swimming in Vedder River

Respondents admitted to risky behaviours: 50 per cent of them confessed to going in the water under the influence of alcohol or marijuana, while 20 per cent admitted to swimming in prohibited areas.

Nearly a quarter of boaters and 60 per cent of tubers said they do not use a personal flotation device while engaging in those activities.

Almost 30 per cent of respondents said they have had a near-drowning experience, and 53 per cent said they’ve witnessed another person in the water in distress.

BC Hydro said it’s introducing lifeguards at two of its most popular recreation sites, Buntzen Lake near Port Moody and Hayward Lake in Mission. Both sites are located on reservoirs, Rieder said, which can be dangerous because water levels can change rapidly.

Read more: ‘Outgoing, dynamic and bright’ football player identified as Shuswap Lake drowning victim

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B.C. dad drowns on Father’s Day trying to save daughter
B.C. dad drowns on Father’s Day trying to save daughter

The report comes amid a number of recent drownings in B.C.

A 20-year-old man died Wednesday after being rescued from Alta Lake in Whistler, a 22-year-old football player drowned in Shuswap Lake last week. Drownings have also been reported in Canoe Beach in Salmon Arm and Cultus Lake in the Fraser Valley,

A number of drownings have also occurred in the Okanagan, including that of a 46-year-old man who died trying to rescue daughter from the Mill Creek waterfall on Father’s Day.

The public is asked not to have a false sense of security in the water and to never leave children unsupervised while in or near the water. Children and non-swimmers should always wear a personal flotation device.