Drowning experts are warning people to be prepared and stay safe in the water this summer. (Pexels)

‘Know the water’: Drowning experts warn swimmers, boaters as B.C.’s summer heats up

Drownings down compared to 2018, but hot weather has experts worried

As summer heats up at last in British Columbia, experts are warning people about the dangers of playing in or on the water.

Dale Miller, executive director of the B.C. and Yukon branch of the Lifesaving Society, said it’s important to “know the water” you’ll be swimming in this summer.

It’s important to know “whether there’s currents, it’s cold water, a drop off… just to be knowledgable about the water they’re heading into,” Miller told Black Press Media by phone.

“We have a lot of glacier fed lakes in the province… that are cold even in the summer.”

Although fatal drownings in B.C. this year are down significantly compared to 2018, with just 18 compared to 47 this time last year, Miller said the recent stretch of hot weather could lead to more deaths.

“I know people think ‘oh, it’s never going to happen to me’ but when it does it helps if you’ve taken a few moments just to think ahead,” he said.

While the Lifesaving Society doesn’t offer the “Learn to Swim” that’s available through the Red Cross, Miller said they do offer a three-lesson Swim to Survive course that he called the “absolute minimum” anyone should have.

“Do you have some form of flotation device you could take with you? Do you have something you could throw to someone [who’s in distress]?”

But having a flotation device doesn’t guarantee your safety, Miller noted.

On July 27, a woman was sitting on a floaty in Hayward Lake near Mission when she was swept up by the current. The woman tried to swim to shore but was too exhaustive by the pull of the water.

READ MORE: A day after his heroic rescue of a woman from drowning, Good Samaritan dies

That’s when a Langley man jumped in to help.

Shaun Nugent was able to rescue the woman but died the next day, for causes that have yet to be determined but that his wife said were connected to the rescue attempt.

Miller said that inflatable toys can give poor swimmers a false sense of safety in the water.

“There are many situations where people fall off on the inflatable and get separated from it,” he said.

“Then, being a non-swimmer or maybe panicking in the water is how they get in trouble.”

While any rescue attempt is heroic, Miller said it’s best to try and throw a life ring or rope into the water for the distressed swimmer whenever possible.

If you do have to get into the water, Miller recommends taking some sort of flotation aid – even a pool noodle – to help stay afloat.

“Just something that victim can hang onto as you’re towing them in… making sure there’s not two victims,” he said.

Miller said he was not aware of the exact cause of death for Nugent, but said that sometimes rescuers can suffer from what’s known as “secondary drowning,” where they don’t drown in the water but instead breathe in water.

“It’s caused up by a buildup of fluid in the lungs,” he said.

While only five per cent of rescuers get it, it can be fatal. It’s marked by shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, coughing and chest discomfort. If anyone you know who’s been in the water starts displaying any of those symptoms, it’s important to get them to the hospital right away.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Like father, like son: second generation hockey player joins Campbell River Storm

Wyatt Murray’s father, Ben Murray, played for the team in late 90s

BC Transit rate change, embarking rules shift into action June 1

Campbell River transit system getting a new day pass

Bride thankful ailing stepdad was able to walk her down the aisle

Ceremony held amidst pandemic in order to fulfill bride’s wish to have stepdad give her away

B.C. aquaculture farm’s employees sweat it out to raise funds for food banks

For every five minutes of exercise recorded, Cermaq Canada is donating a dollar to local food banks in communities they operate

Province pays $4.08 million for hotel to house fire victims

The Government of B.C. has purchased a new building to help people… Continue reading

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Mirror business directory and map

If you’d like to be added to the list, shoot us an email

Toronto Raptors’ Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided

Thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Man dies in ATV accident south of Nanaimo

Incident happened on backroad Friday night in Nanaimo Lakes area

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Most Read