Vernon News

More drownings in Okanagan Lake than anywhere else in B.C.

Okanagan Lake
Image Credit: Wikipedia

OKANAGAN -  So far this year, Okanagan Lake has claimed more lives than any other body of water in the province, including the ocean.

There have been four deaths in Okanagan Lake this summer, all of them men. One died while snorkeling, one after jumping off a houseboat, one after hitting a log boom, and another was discovered dead in the water near the Kelowna Yacht Club after spending the day alone in his boat. 

Interior Regional Coroner Larry Marzinzik says that's more than normal.

"In the past few years it's been two or three deaths," Marzinzik says. "Usually Okanagan lake is second to the ocean, but not this year."

Up until a couple weeks ago, Marzinzik says things were looking good with only one drowning. Then there were three in just over a week.

The four deaths remain under investigation, so Marzinzik can't comment on them specifically. But he does say they're consistent with one general pattern: men being more prone to drowning than women. Typically, they are higher risk-takers and engage in more water related sports than women do, giving them higher exposure to danger.

Marzinzik says a few factors contribute to Okanagan Lake's drowning record. For one, it's a huge lake touching multiple communities, all the way from Vernon in the north to Penticton in the south. Secondly, its popularity is also its demise.

"The lake has (more drownings) because we have a higher number of residents and vacationers... There are tens of thousands of people on it," Marzinzik says.

In a hot, dry summer like we've had, the lake draws a real crowd. In their 2013 report, the Lifesaving Society B.C. and Yukon branch says drownings have been up since 2007, partly due to changing weather trends. As the mercury rises, so does the number of beachgoers.

Marzinzik reminds the public that while fun, the lake can also be a dangerous place. Taking precautions can be as easy as checking the weather before you go out, wearing a life jacket, or not having that glass of beer.

"No one is immune from the risk of drowning, it can happen to anyone," he says.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.

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