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‘It did not look like drowning’: Good Samaritan wants you to know the signs

Click to play video: 'Frightening Harrison Lake incident shows how drownings can happen without anyone in apparent distress' Frightening Harrison Lake incident shows how drownings can happen without anyone in apparent distress
WATCH: Many are trying to beat the heat this summer by taking a dip in the water. But when a man nearly drowned at Harrison Lake on BC Day, a woman who helped in his rescue says the incident looked like nothing you've seen in the movies. Jordan Armstrong reports. – Aug 5, 2021

Could you identify the signs someone was drowning?

If your picture of distress in the water involves splashing, raised arms or cries for help, in most cases you’d be wrong.

It’s a message a B.C. woman who recently helped save a drowning man at Harrison Lake wants to share, in hopes of preventing other tragedies.

Read more: Notable increase in drownings across Alberta, RCMP say

Emily Treen was at the lake on Monday with her boyfriend when it happened.

“We were looking out at the water, we were looking at everything and nothing is amiss,” she said.

The pair never would have realized there was a problem if someone on the shore hadn’t started yelling for help.

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When they went to investigate, they were told someone in the lagoon was drowning.

Click to play video: 'New high-tech device designed to help rescuers find drowning victims faster' New high-tech device designed to help rescuers find drowning victims faster
New high-tech device designed to help rescuers find drowning victims faster – Aug 13, 2020

It was only then they spotted the man, who was stationary in the water and clinging desperately to a small floatie.

Treen and her boyfriend swam out to the man with a life ring.

“He wasn’t making any kind of motion, nothing visible that he was in distress, he couldn’t say anything, he couldn’t move his arms,” she said.

Read more: ‘IFamily mourns B.C. man who died saving drowning son

“Drowning doesn’t look like what you expect it to in movies. It’s not someone falling their arms, it’s not someone yelling, it’s not someone in distress — once they’ve gotten to a point, their body just shuts down.”

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The couple was able to get the man to shore, where he was assessed by paramedics and released.

Click to play video: 'One dozen foreign nationals have drowned in B.C. in last 15 years' One dozen foreign nationals have drowned in B.C. in last 15 years
One dozen foreign nationals have drowned in B.C. in last 15 years – Aug 1, 2020

But the incident rattled Treen, who had previously researched the signs of drowning after her friend’s brother died at the lake several years before.

She said witnessing it firsthand inspired her to speak out.

Read more: Drowning deaths in the Maritimes on the rise, organization says

“There are so many times when people don’t even know what’s happening.”

The Lifesaving Society says there have already been 32 drownings in the B.C. and Yukon in 2021, more than three-quarters of them men and boys.

There are several key warning signs that someone could be drowning, and none of them are what you’d see in a Hollywood movie:

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  • Head low in the water, with mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Near vertical body position
  • Ineffective downward arm movements
  • Ineffective pedaling or kicking leg action
  • Trying to swim in a direction but making little or no progress

“I’m happy that we were there and I’m happy that we were able to do something,” Treen said.

“But more importantly, I would feel a lot better if the message got out that it is deceptive.”

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