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RCMP urge boating safety after ‘unfortunate and avoidable tragic events’ on Okanagan Lake

A view of Okanagan Lake, and Rattlesnake Island, from Highway 97. Police say the 34-year-old man jumped into the lake near Squally Point, south of Rattlesnake Island, on Saturday afternoon. Google Maps

Long weekends in the Okanagan come with an expected uptick of boater traffic and, in turn, a rise in potentially deadly mistakes on the lake.

Kelowna Mounties said Thursday that statistics show that fatal drownings were most common in the summer months, peaking at an average of 13.2 deaths per year in July.

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Around 79 per cent of water casualties in B.C. are male and 87 per cent were from the province.

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Individuals aged 19 to 29 years old account for 23 per cent of the deaths, 17 per cent were 50 to 59-year-olds and 80 per cent of drownings occur due to not using a lifejacket.

“Recently in the Okanagan we have witnessed tragedy where people have lost their lives as a result of drowning,” Const. Mike Della-Paolera said in a press release.

“These are unfortunate and avoidable tragic events.”

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Before heading out on the water, boaters should make sure their boat is equipped with enough Canadian-approved lifejackets to fit themselves and everyone on board,  RCMP said.

“Wearing a life jacket or PFD is the best defence for surviving cold-water shock and hypothermia,” RCMP said.

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“Beware of fatigue, sun, wind and boat motion. All can dull your senses and impair fine motor skills and judgment.”

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Boaters are reminded to make sure their vessel is equipped with the proper required safety equipment such as sound signals, bailers, oars/paddles/anchor, flares, fire extinguishers, etc.

Check the Safe Boating Guide or Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to see the requirements for the size of a vessel.

Items such as navigation lights are a must when operating the vessel in restricted visibility or at night.

Also, ensure that the vessel is registered/licensed and the operator has a proper operator licence such as Pleasure Craft Operator Card for pleasure crafts with engine over 10 hp.

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