Spate Of Tragedies On Water Prompts A Call For Extra Caution
By 250 News
Although not clearly visible, these canoers were without PFDs on the Nechako River today
Prince George, BC - With eight drowning deaths in the province last weekend, the BC Coroners Service and Emergency Management BC are reminding BC residents and visitors to take extra caution when engaging in water-related activities in an effort to prevent further loss of life.
Here in Prince George, the body of a 65-year-old city Colin Wesley was pulled from the Fraser River on Sunday afternoon near Lansdowne Road. Although the Coroners Service is still investigating, foul play has been ruled out in the drowning of the city man.
And while there were no incidents reported as a result of last Saturday's Nechako River float, local emergency personnel were concerned that the vast majority of the 100 participants were not wearing proper Personal Floatation Devices. Three people drowned on the Kettle River near Grand Forks in a tubing mishap that same day. Local first responders were called out on Sunday afternoon to rescue three teenagers who were forced to swim to an island in the middle of the Nechako near Wilson Park, after their inflatable was impaled by debris in the river. A similar rescue occurred on Friday afternoon, involving two people not wearing life jackets.
Emergency Management BC Executive Director, Chris Duffy, echoes what local RCMP and PG Fire Rescue have been cautioning, high run-off from the record winter snowpack and heavy rains during the spring mean rivers, streams and lakes around the province are higher, faster, and colder than usual. Duffy says, " Touring the Interior region of the province recently, I have never seen such high water levels and flow rates at this time of year."
"The risk in many activities such as rafting, tubing, and canoeing is likely to be much higher than might be otherwise expected," says BC's Chief Coroner, Lisa Lapointe. She points out visitors to the province may be at particularly high risk due to their unfamiliarity with these hazards.
A summary of accidental drowning deaths in the province over the years spanning 2006 to 2010 shows a total of 404, for an average of about 80 drowning deaths each year. Five out of six who drowned were male. More than half the deaths occurred in the age group from 20 through 49. And the three most common recreational activities involving accidental drowning were swimming, motor boating, and canoeing/kayaking.
The Coroners Service is offering the following water safety tips:
- always wear a properly fitting Personal Floatation Device when engaged in boating or tubing activities. Children, non-swimmers, and weak swimmers should also wear a PFD when wading or playing in the water at a river or lakeside.
- always supervise children anywhere near water. Pre-school aged children can drown in only a few centimetres of water, and the drowning is often silent.
- alcohol and water-related activities do not mix. Alcohol and/or drugs were found to be contributing factors in two out of five drowning deaths between 2006 and 2010.
- be aware of the area where you are planning your activities - check the weather forecast before heading out and do a visual inspection of the area.
- if you are hosting visitors from out-of-province or country, ensure they are informed about the conditions that prevail in the lake or river you are visiting.
- never dive into unknown waters
View of the Nechako River from under the Foothills Bridge
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Northern Troutfitters, Northern Hardware, Howies Marine, Cycle North, NR Motors, try one of the local private businesses, the big box stores are probably not going to re-stock this late in the season.
So you may have to pay a bit more for a life jacket, what is your life worth?