Counsellors to help Kelowna H2O staff deal with tragic triathlon death -

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Counsellors to help Kelowna H2O staff deal with tragic triathlon death

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May 02, 2016 - 8:00 PM

KELOWNA - It’s what every lifeguard trains for but hopes they never see — an unresponsive swimmer in the water.

It happened at the H2O Centre in Kelowna Saturday morning, April 30, during the Cherry Blossom Triathlon. RCMP say a 57-year-old Saskatchewan woman was pulled from the water by a lifeguard who performed CPR, but the woman was unresponsive. They have not yet released cause of death but Const. Jesse O'Donaghey said she was "in medical distress prior to going below the waters surface."

H2O spokesman C.J. Wilkens says the woman never actually went below the surface but she was noticed floating on her back and pulled from the water. She was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Wilkens says while staff are struggling with the tragedy the YMCA, which runs the facility, has called in some help.

“The gravity of the situation is starting to sink in,” he says. “So what we are doing is… bringing in some professional counselors to assist the first responders in dealing with the emotions of what they saw.”

Wilkens says lifeguards on staff range in age with some still in high school. All are first aid trained and there is a wide assortment of life-saving devices available to them on site.

“This was an urgent situation,” he says. “They did a fantastic job responding quickly to this incident. It’s unfortunate the individual didn’t survive.”

Wilkens says a team of people were all working together to try to revive the woman. She was given CPR and hooked to an automated external defibrillator, a device commonly known as an AED, which reads life signs and will deliver defibrillating currents when necessary.

“We have a lot of trust and faith in our training and practices,” Wilkens says.

Making it even harder for staff to process the reality they were unable to save the woman, he says, is that she had family in town cheering her on. Some were even participating in the race with her.

“It’s a tragedy,” he says. “Our hearts go out to them.”

— This story was updated at 10:30 a.m., May 3, 2016 to include information from Wilkens clarifying the woman was not underwater but found floating on her back.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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