Okanagan and Thompson rivers proving deadlier than lakes this year - InfoNews

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Okanagan and Thompson rivers proving deadlier than lakes this year

B.C. Ambulance Service paramedics can be seen with a man pulled from the Okanagan River Channel in Penticton, Wednesday, June 28, 2017.
July 07, 2017 - 8:00 PM

This year, the Thompson-Okanagan has experienced a fairly unusual trend of more people drowning in the region’s rivers and streams than in its lakes.

In April, a woman died in the Thompson River near Ashcroft when her pickup truck went off the road. On May 5, Cache Creek fire chief Clayton Cassidy was swept away while checking creek flows. On June 28, a man died while tubing down the Okanagan River Channel in Penticton, and on July 1, a 25-year-old man fell into the South Thompson River and drowned.

Last year, the Thompson-Okanagan saw just one river-related death. That was April 16 when a 33-year-old man was thrown into Trout Creek in Summerland and was swept away.

Dale Miller, executive director of the Lifesaving Society of B.C., says in a usual year, there is a closer split between lake and river drownings, with a tilt to lakes. Last year, for example, five people died in notorious Okanagan Lake, two in Skaha Lake, and one in Osoyoos Lake.

“This year there are more in rivers and streams. We think that’s because of the spring runoff,” Miller says.

Waterways were much higher than normal across the Thompson-Okanagan this year, prompting numerous high stream flow advisories and specific warnings to avoid certain rivers completely.

There have been seven drowning deaths in the Thompson-Okanagan so far this year, with the majority falling in the past week. They include the Jan. 31 death of a Tolko tug boat operator, a July 2 drowning in Shuswap Lake, and a July 5 drowning in Okanagan Lake.

“The best slogan is ‘know before you go,’” Miller says. “Know the waterways you’re going into, know your limitations. We don’t want any more victims.”

There have been 24 drownings across the province so far in 2017, which is on par with previous years, Miller says. Year-over-year, there has been a downward trend, Miller says.

“We’re headed in the right direction, just not quickly enough,” he says.

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