Judge finds Revelstoke partly at blame after tourist seriously injured diving into lake | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Judge finds Revelstoke partly at blame after tourist seriously injured diving into lake

Two young girls were rescued from Okanagan Lake near Vernon, Sunday, Aug
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The City of Revelstoke has been found partly liable after a Surrey firefighter dove into a lake and suffered catastrophic injuries.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Karen Horsman ruled the City was 35 per cent liable for the accident even though the rock in which firefighter Aaron Gelowitz dove into the lake from was on private land.

The case dates back to 2015, when Gelowitz was on vacation camping with his family and some friends at City-owned Williamson Lake Park and Campground in Revelstoke.

According to the B.C. Supreme Court decision, the campground, which is City property, sits on the lakeshore.

One day Gelowitz decided to swim across the small lake and onto the other shore. He then dove head first into the lake and hit something. The water was dark and although Gelowitz performed a "shallow dive" he struck an object under the water, possibly a submerged log. He was taken to hospital in Revelstoke before eventually being airlifted to Vancouver where he spent months in hospital with a spinal cord injury.

Gelowitz then sued the City of Revelstoke arguing the City was negligent for failing to have a sign telling people not to dive into the lake due to underwater hazards.

He acknowledged he is 50 per cent at fault but alleged the City is also 50 per cent at fault.

Gelowitz had originally named the Revelstoke Alpine Village in the civil suit because the company owns the piece of land on the eastern shore where he dove into the lake. The decision says he came to a settlement with the company.

The court documents say the land is undeveloped, forested, and vacant.

The City of Revelstoke argued it didn't owe Gelowitz a duty of care to warn him about the dangers of diving off land it did not own.

However, the Justice disagreed saying the City facilitated access to the eastern shore by maintaining a raft in the middle of the small lake, and it was well aware people jumped from the rocks on the eastern side.

Gelowitz had stopped at the raft while swimming across the lake.

"It was reasonably foreseeable that such hazards might be present at the eastern shore, which is an area that Park users, to the City’s knowledge, routinely travelled to. The actual injury suffered by (Gelowitz) in diving from the eastern shore was, therefore, a foreseeable consequence of the City’s breach of the standard of care in failing (to) have visible signs warning against diving at the point (Gelowitz) entered the lake and on the raft."

According to the decision a sign had been painted on the dock in 2012 as per a safety audit of facilities at the campsite.

The decision says there was no evidence the signs were repainted after that, and either way, Gelowitz had entered the lake by a different entry point and therefore would not have seen the "no diving" sign painted on the dock or another sign installed by the main beach.

The sign painted on the dock in 2012 was no longer visible by 2015 and several witnesses testified that they did not see any signs on the raft on the day of the incident.

The lengthy 21,000-word decision includes testimony by several expert witnesses in areas ranging from risk management to water-related injury specialists.

While the consensus with the experts is that the City should have signs that warn users of the risk of diving they disagreed on what was required of the City in the design and placement of signs in this case.

The Justice then assessed the blameworthiness of both parties.

"(Gelowitz) was the person primarily responsible for his own safety. He has acknowledged that it was careless to dive into the lake based on a visual inspection of the water alone. He agrees that he knew better. The plaintiff’s assumption that the water was deep enough for a safe shallow dive based on visual inspection alone was not a reasonable one. The plaintiff fell well short of the standard of care required of him in the circumstances," Justice Horsman said in the decision. "At the same time... the City owed a duty to park users to warn of the risks of diving. The City also fell well short of meeting its standard of care, specifically in relation to the maintenance of warning signs on the raft. The City received and failed to follow, specific risk management advice that 'no diving' signs be painted and maintained on the raft... the cost to the City of meeting its standard of care was minimal, while the risk of harm to park users was grave."

With that, Justice Horsman rules Gelowitz to be 65 per cent at fault and the City of Revelstoke to be 35 per cent. The judgment did not specify damages or costs.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 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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