Man drowns at Wizard Lake as Alberta RCMP issue warning about water safety

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WATCH ABOVE: It's been a devastating year for water safety across Alberta. RCMP have recorded more than a dozen drownings — the latest a 49-year-old man whose body was recovered Thursday morning from Wizard Lake. Chris Chacon reports – Jul 15, 2021

EDITOR’S NOTE: Based on information provided by the RCMP, a prior version of this article said the man who drowned had been trying to rescue a three-year-old family member. The RCMP later issued an update and said it was actually his nine-year-old son he was trying to rescue. The article has been updated to reflect the new information.

A man’s body has been recovered from a lake southwest of Edmonton after he disappeared in the water Wednesday night.

Leduc RCMP said emergency crews were called about the possible drowning at Wizard Lake —  45 minutes southwest of Edmonton — at about 7:20 p.m.

A 49-year-old man was lost and feared drowned, RCMP said Thursday morning, after trying to rescue his nine-year-old son from the lake.

A Global News crew at the scene saw police vehicles, several fire trucks from Leduc County and Mulhurst Bay and an ambulance by the lake, along with a crew from the Central Alberta Rescue Diving Society.

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Read more: Alberta woman recalls harrowing rescue after falling into Jasper river: ‘This is how I’m going to die’

Divers could be seen going into the lake to look for the missing man.

The RCMP said Fish and Wildlife conservation officers, Leduc County fire and rescue and police were involved in the search. The man was not found during the night, police said Thursday.

Efforts to recover the man resumed Thursday, and RCMP said his body was recovered at about 10 a.m. by an underwater dive team. RCMP said the man’s family has been notified.

RCMP had already been set to speak to the media Thursday about drownings, even before Wednesday night’s tragedy.

Police said recent hot weather has resulted in Albertans flocking to lakes and rivers to enjoy recreational water activities such as tubing, paddle boarding and swimming — which has unfortunately resulted in injuries and fatalities.

“The heat for sure is a driving factor,” said Staff Sgt. Brent Meyer of central Alberta district RCMP and marine instructor for Alberta RCMP.

“But also, people have spent the last year cooped up at home throughout the COVID pandemic. When you couple people wanting get out and about and enjoy those family connections… and you add in these heat waves we’ve had, it’s driving people outside.

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“This year, unfortunately, we’ve seen 15 (fatal drownings) to date,” Meyer said.

“Those numbers are a bit high for this early in the summer but, unfortunately, in the years prior, we have seen numbers rise as high as 21.”

Meyer said Wednesday’s incident is being included in the RCMP’s numbers.

He said the RCMP want Albertans to enjoy the outdoors, but to get home safely.

“There are a ton of variables as to why (drownings) occur. It’s people getting out of their comfort zone, getting in above their head in terms of depth, getting too far from shore, failing to wear appropriate life-saving appliances… using inflatables that are poor quality and they get themselves in trouble, you can even add in use of alcohol or illicit substances… you diminish your capacity, your reasoning, your judgement.”

Read more: Man dies after being swept away during dog rescue on North Saskatchewan River

Some safety tips recommended by the Canadian Red Cross include:

  • Have a plan before you head out on the water and be prepared for any possible weather changes or emergencies.
  • Open water is very different than swimming in a pool – distance can be deceiving, and you often must contend with cold water, waves, currents, drop offs, sandbars, water visibility, undertows, and underwater obstacles, as well as watercrafts. Know the swimming area and be aware of sudden drop offs to deep water.
  • Whenever possible, swim with a buddy: When going out on the water make sure you are with another responsible swimmer. Children should be with an adult. Water toys of any size are not a substitute for adult supervision.
  • Non-swimmers should wear a lifejacket at all times. When it comes to lifejackets, keeping one close by isn’t close enough. Choose to wear your lifejacket and make every water activity a safe one.
  • Don’t drink and play: There is no safe way to mix alcohol or drugs with water activities.

Wizard Lake is about 65 kilometres southwest of Edmonton.

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— With files from Emily Mertz, Global News

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