An Edmonton man whose dad died in the North Saskatchewan River in April 2021 believes more warnings, signs and awareness campaigns could prevent similar tragedies.
“Two years ago, my father had gone into the river,” Strider White said.
“He drowned while saving a stranger’s dog on the ice.”
White came down to the river Monday after hearing a teenager had been swept away in the water on Sunday.
“I heard about the missing young man and I wanted to take a look at what the police operations were down here in terms of search and rescue and recovery,” he said. “I have to thank the first responders, the fire crews, search and rescue, everyone that’s come out.
“The first thing that I thought of was the family.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like for a 14-year-old boy to go in like that and lose him… having experienced that myself.
“My heart is right there with them.”
White was actually out in the river on Sunday as well.
“I’m a bigger guy. I was standing in the water up to my knees. I was actually just around the corner when this happened. It was pushing me over and I’m a grown adult… I can’t imagine a 14-year-old boy.”
White said his dad went in the river around Buena Vista Park and his body was recovered several weeks later near Groat Road.
“His circumstance was a little difference because of the ice. There were witnesses that saw him go under the ice. Our interpretation of that was he would not be alive. Of course, we’re always still hopeful.
“After they found him it was like the whole thing over again,” White added.
“This obviously brings up those memories.
“The main aspect of this is attention to the safety of the river here. I believe we need more public focus and attention on the dangers this river poses. It’s beautiful but it’s dangerous.”
He’d like to see more signs around the riverbank warning people.
“I would like to have more public information and more awareness and attention put on how dangerous this is, especially at this time of year,” White said.
Police began searching for the boy on Sunday evening and were joined by partner agencies, including Edmonton Fire Rescue Services, Park Rangers, Strathcona County Fire and Search and Rescue.
The search continued Monday but as of 5:30 p.m., the teen had not been found.
White said the news brought back memories of his father’s death.
“Of course it’s devastating. I’m still reeling from the loss of that.
“He went out the way he was. He was a hero. He literally gave everything he had — including his life — to protect someone else or something else.
“I could be angry at this river. I could be afraid of this river. But I feel that especially through the events of my father, what’s happened recently, I feel compelled to come at least somehow make a difference.
“If some kind of message can go out that would save one person’s life or maybe one animal’s life than this is totally worth it — coming out and facing what could potentially be a huge fear to try and help in some way.
“It’s dangerous any time of the year.”