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Kelowna RCMP calling for boater safety this Canada Day long weekend

Safe Boating Awareness Week is May 19th to 25th The Canadian Safe Boating Council would like to remind you to wear a PFD or Lifejacket, boat sober, take a boating course, be sure both you and your vessel are prepared, and be wary of the dangers of cold water immersion. Enjoy a fun and safe boating season. Global News

In the wake of two recent deaths on waterways in the Okanagan, Kelowna RCMP are reminding the public to practice safe boating during the Canada Day long weekend.

This will be the first Canada Day long weekend since 2019 where COVID-19 restrictions shouldn’t hinder any plans, and Okanagan Lake will likely be a hot spot for those trying to take in the summer heat.

“Yeah, I think it’s going to be pretty busy, like nice weather and a bunch of us guys and it’s going to be a good time,” said boater Jonah Ragstale.

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However, after local authorities recently uncovered two drowning victims from Okanagan waterways, police want to send a clear message to those who plan on enjoying some time on the lake.

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“Being out on the water in a boat, the rules apply the same as they do on our roads and highways,” said Kelowna RCMP Const. Mike Della-Paolera.

“We need the operator of the boat (to) be sober.”

And with lake levels still high from spring runoff, police are reminding boaters to be extra cautious of floating debris.

“There’s a lot of debris, a lot of logs and some of them aren’t visible, especially when we get a little later in the evening when the sun’s going down,” said Della-Paolera, “and we’re out there driving at a high rate of speed on a boat and there might be a log there.”

He added, “so, there is debris out there and we can’t do much about that, so we need the operators of the boat to be aware of that.”

Click to play video: 'Global Okanagan News tags along with the RCMP marine patrol team'
Global Okanagan News tags along with the RCMP marine patrol team

 

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Police say they’ll be out in full force this weekend — on the water and on the roads — after bringing in roughly 50 additional officers from other detachments.

“It’s going to be busy and we are prepared, but we just need everybody to be safe and mindful,” said Della-Paolera.

For a second straight year, the Kelowna Yacht Club is offering a free, hands-on boater safety course that offers safe-boating tips. Those successful in completing the program will also receive their pleasure craft operator card.

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

The club’s executive director says the course is key for anyone looking to enjoy safe boating.

“The course is very critical and that’s why I think the on-water portion of it is really important. But, you know, for those who haven’t taken it or don’t have time this weekend, I would just say be very careful out there,” said Kelowna Yacht Club’s executive director Thom Killingsworth.

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“It’s going to be very busy, there’s going to be a lot of people who perhaps aren’t prepared.”

Boat rental companies in Kelowna are also doing everything they can to ensure their users are safe and prepared for the influx of boaters.

“Lifejackets, buoys, dock lines, all the safety gear that’s required. Registration is always found on the boat 100 per cent all the time,” said Okanagan Luxury Boat Club employee Luke McMillan.

“We want to make sure that our clients and members are complete with 100 per cent safety, plus our boats as well.”

RCMP also want to remind everyone that if you spot anything unusual or unsafe on the water, to dial 911 or the RCMP’s non-emergency line.

Click to play video: 'Four sailors plucked from Juan de Fuca  Strait after boats overturn'
Four sailors plucked from Juan de Fuca Strait after boats overturn

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