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Thompson-Okanagan drownings could have been prevented

There have been three deaths related to cliff-jumping in B.C. so far in 2014.
July 22, 2014 - 10:58 AM

THOMPSON OKANAGAN - A 14-year-old boy who died in a tubing accident in Vernon is one of 42 people across the province, and seven in the Thompson-Okanagan alone, whose lives were claimed in preventable drowning or water-related incidents over the past six and a half months. 

Miles Wohlford, 14, fell off his tube during an afternoon on Okanagan Lake and was struck by the propeller of the boat when the driver turned it around. Other water-related deaths so far this year include a 24-year-old man who drowned near Okanagan Falls, a 77-year-old man in Niskonlith Lake, a 54-year-old woman in Burnell-Sawmill Lake, a 46-year-old woman in Sugar Lake, a 67-year-old man in the Similkameen River near Princeton and an 84-year-old man in Paul Lake near Kamloops.

It’s deaths like these the Lifesaving Society of B.C. is trying to prevent through Drowning Prevention Week, July 19-26.

“It’s very concerning that we see the same type of incidents every year and that they’re all preventable,” executive director Dale Miller says. “I cringe every time I hear about one, because I know somewhere along the way someone could’ve taken a moment to think of how to prevent it or how to deal with it when it did happen.”

Drowning deaths are down slightly over the same time last year when there were 46 reported incidents, but Miller says “it’s still too many.”

There were a few less drownings in the 18-24 year-old age group, down to nine compared to 16 at the same time in 2013. Meanwhile, deaths in the 50-64 year-old group doubled to ten from five last year.

“Some of it may be people who are of an age they think it just can’t happen to them,” Miller says.  “We know youth and young adults have that invincibility mind set.”

But because every year is different, Miller says the number and types of drownings this year compared to last are more coincidence than trend. The important message is that anyone, no matter how old they are, can be victims of drowning.

Out of the 42 province-wide deaths so far in 2014, 13 were boating related (up from 9 at the same time last year) and three involved cliff jumping, up from zero last year. Another 15 died accidentally entering the water, including a 23-year-old woman who slipped into a fast moving creek while hiking in Maple Ridge and a pair of youths in Prince George whose vehicle rolled into a lake.

Often, drowning victims are surrounded by people, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to rescuers, Miller says.

“In so many cases, people just did not know what to do,” Miller says.

Thinking about what to do in an emergency and having the wherewithal to bring rope or a floatation device with you when on or around water could save lives. Even a styrofoam cooler can provide floatation for someone who is drowning. Miller also encourages everyone to obtain some basic first aid and water rescue training.

“A life could be saved if they had a small piece of equipment or if they knew what to do,” Miller says.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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