RCMP to be patrolling Okanagan Lake this weekend

FILE. On Okangan Lake . RCMP

Mounties are reminding visitors to the Okanagan as well as area residents to stay safe when they get onto local lakes ahead of the Canada Day weekend because, if not, the consequences can be dire.

“The RCMP’s vision is to eliminate senseless and preventable deaths on our waterways,” RCMP said in a press release.

Read more: Kelowna woman, 90, to complete Across the Lake swim for 7th time

Officers will be on the lake this weekend, ensuring that people do what they can to maintain their safety as they hit the water. As is, each year Okanagan waterways claim lives.

According to statistics from the BC Coroner’s Service, there were nine drowning deaths in 2017, four in 2018, seven in 2019, seven in 2020 and six in 2021.

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Click to play video: '90-year-old woman swimming across Okanagan Lake'
90-year-old woman swimming across Okanagan Lake

And of all local waterways, Okanagan Lake yearly has the most fatalities within the valley. The BC Coroner’s Service said there were five drowning deaths within its depths in 2017, one in 2018, four in 2019, three in 2020 and two in 2021.  Already this year, the lake has claimed one life.

Read more: Body of Calgary man pulled from Okanagan Lake

Many drowning incidents, according to RCMP, are a result of fatigue and being too far from shore, RCMP said, noting that boaters, tubers and swimmers alike should always wear life-jackets or personal floatation devices when on the water.

There’s also a risk of cold shock during the early days of the swimming season.

“Wearing a life jacket or Personal Flotation Devices is the best defense for surviving cold-water shock and hypothermia,” RCMP said.

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Boating accidents are also an ongoing issue.

Read more: Okanagan, Shuswap boaters asked to slow down, lessen wakes as water levels remain high

“The majority of accidents are caused by the boat operator and not by mechanical, equipment failure or environmental causes,” RCMP said.

Click to play video: 'Okanagan Lake to hit full pool, expert says no cause for concern'
Okanagan Lake to hit full pool, expert says no cause for concern

“Human carelessness and failure to keep a proper lookout are the two primary causes of boating accidents.”

Drinking and driving, which includes the use of cannabis, whether on land or water, is illegal and punishable under the Criminal Code, RCMP said. And speed is a major contributor to incidents on the roadways and on the water.

It’s recommended that boaters check the Safety Boating Guide or Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to see the requirements for the size of their vessel. Items such as navigation lights are a must when operating the vessel in restricted visibility or at night.

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