Quebec drownings up sharply in 2020 as advocates say pandemic, warm summer to blame

The Life Saving Society recorded a stunning 95 deaths by drowning in 2020, compared to 58 in 2019.
Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Increase in boating and swimming accidents reported in Quebec in 2020'
Coronavirus: Increase in boating and swimming accidents reported in Quebec in 2020
WATCH: New data suggests that drownings and serious injuries in the water were up significantly in 2020. With people staying close to home due to the pandemic, swimming pools and water craft were more popular than ever. Global’s Benson Cook spoke to one young man about one dive too many that changed his life – Jan 28, 2021

When William Montpetit visited a friend’s swimming pool in July 2020, he took a dive that would change his life forever.

“Unfortunately, I dove the wrong way,” he explained. “I broke my C5 and C6 vertebrate, so I was in the pool, and my arms didn’t work, nothing worked, so I drowned, unfortunately.”

His friends were able to transport him to hospital, but it was there that doctors confirmed the news: “They told me I wouldn’t walk again for the rest of my life,” Montpetit said.

Months later, after lots of treatment and hard work at the Pavillon Lindsay rehabilitation centre in Montreal’s west end, Montpetit’s father, Marc-Anthony, says he’s proud to see how far his son has come, and the support he’s received.

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

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“They have very good physical therapists and ergotherapists that are helping him a lot,” he told Global News.

But life for William and his family will never be the same: Marc-Anthony and his ex-wife have had to raise thousands of dollars — through a GoFundMe page — to retrofit their homes to be suitable for William to live in.

William, meanwhile, will never be able to finish the training he was undergoing last summer to become an orderly.

“If I’m not able to get myself in the bed, I can’t really help somebody (else) get in the bed,” he said.

The Montpetits are far from the only Quebec family to have their lives upended by tragedy in the water.

The Lifesaving Society recorded a stunning 95 deaths by drowning in 2020, compared to 58 in 2019.

It is possible that yet-to-be-processed coroner’s reports could reveal the true figure is slightly higher. According to the organization’s director-general, the estimated 63.8-per cent increase is due to two major factors: excellent weather during the summer of 2020, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Read more: Montreal Children’s Hospital worried about possible rise in injuries, drownings with kids stuck at home

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Many more Quebecers than normal did not leave the province at all during the summer months of last year, and “with beautiful weather, that means with all the sales of backyard pools and with personal watercraft, we can explain: more people, they were close, or in on or on the water, so that increases the probability of those dramatic situations,” Raynald Hawkins explained.

With so many more people than usual swimming in their backyard pools or taking to the province’s lakes, rivers and beaches, accidents that are common when people don’t take precautions are simply more likely to happen, Hawkins said.

“What I can tell you: a lot them were non-swimmers, a lot of them were alone, a lot of them didn’t wear, or didn’t wear appropriately, their life jacket,” he said.

Meanwhile, William is focusing on his rehabilitation, and while he’ll never become an orderly, he says he hopes he’ll be strong enough to work again someday.

“For the future right now, it’s just about getting better, and getting stronger, so my life can be easier.”

Click to play video: 'Quebec’s increase in drownings cause for concern'
Quebec’s increase in drownings cause for concern

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