It has been a tragic few days on Alberta lakes and rivers.
A 28-year-old man and 27-year-old woman — believed to have drowned — were found on the northeastern shores of Pigeon Lake on Friday afternoon, according to RCMP.
“At this point in our investigation, we believe it to be accidental,” Const. Chantelle Kelly said Saturday. “At this point, it appears to be non-suspicious, non-criminal. But again, autopsies will have to be completed, an investigation will have to be completed in its entirety before we can make that determination.”
On Saturday, Cochrane RCMP said a youth was swimming east of Seebe Dam west of Calgary when he went missing in the water. The boy was attempting to swim across the river with friends when he was swept under the water. RCMP said he was presumed to have drowned.
Monica Sicotte, who has been working in aquatic safety for 30 years, said learning to swim, avoiding alcohol consumption and wearing a properly fitted life-jacket are among the critical life-saving measures when out on the water.
“Life jackets are like seatbelts, if you don’t wear it, it doesn’t work, and you will not have time to grab it after you’ve fallen into the water, so make sure you’re wearing the life jacket. It should be buckled up. It should fit you,” Sicotte said.
Darryl Tetz has been canoeing and kayaking for more than 45 years. Tetz said he’s stayed safe by taking certain precautions, specifically, having the necessary equipment, monitoring the conditions and respecting the dangers of water.
“You look over at the shore and say, ‘Hey, let’s paddle over there.’ So you turn the boat and then suddenly we drifted onto this bridge peer. That fast. Now you’re in real trouble.”
According to the LiveSaving Society, 406 people died in Alberta as a result of water-related fatalities between 2008 and 2017. An average of around 400 Canadians die annually of the same cause, according to the society.
“I think people don’t recognize it as a risk. It’s fun,” Sicotte said. “Going out to the lake is an enjoyable activity, swimming in a pool is an enjoyable activity and people don’t see the risk that is in water.”
Tetz said he’s upfront about the dangers of water with anyone who gets into a canoe or kayak with him.
“If I’m taking people out paddling, the first thing I do is tell them, ‘You can die out here,'” he said.
LifeSaving Society statistics indicate the two most common water-related fatalities in Alberta happen when people are swimming or using non-motorized boats.
The age groups with the highest risk of drowning are adults 20-34 years of age, adults 50-64 years of age and seniors over 65 years years of age, according to the society.