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Thompson Okanagan seeing higher number of drownings

Police on scene searching for a missing man in Okanagan Lake, Aug. 13.
Image Credit: Marshall Jones

More people are drowning in Thompson Okanagan lakes and rivers compared to last year, says the executive director for The Lifesaving Society.

Yesterday, Aug. 15, the body of a 26-year-old Surrey man was recovered from Okanagan Lake near Kelowna’s downtown marina. The man was originally reported missing Saturday night and police reported it was a possible drowning. Police said he fell in the water and didn't resurface.

READ MORE: Surrey man drowns at Okanagan Lake marina

“There’s a number of reasons it could happen, it may be this person could have had a medical incident. The other possibility is the water is still fairly cold, even though it’s still the middle of summer, depending on the lake the person falls into, there’s often a gasp reflex that’s so common and if that gasp is taken underwater, there could be a less than positive outcome there,” said Dale Miller, executive director of The Lifesaving Society for the B.C. and Yukon branch.

The Interior Health region accounts for 34% of the province’s drowning deaths despite having only 14% of its population.

Okanagan Lake is the most deadly lake, and six of the ten B.C. lakes where people have drowned are in the Okanagan and Shuswap regions, according to data from the B.C. Coroner’s Service.

“The Okanagan is definitely a holiday destination for everybody in the Lower Mainland…and with the good weather we’ve got now everyone is out in the water,” Miller said.

The Lifesaving Society keeps track of drownings in the province. So far, it’s recorded 22 drownings in B.C. this year with 50% being recorded in the Thompson Okanagan, an unusually high number compared to previous years. 

Miller didn’t have a concrete reason as to why the number of drownings in the region are higher this year compared to previous years, he said.

Overall in the province, the number of drownings has declined, from 30 last year to 22 this year.

The number one way to prevent drowning is to wear a life jacket, he said, adding there isn’t a way to prevent that natural gasp reflex in the water.

He recommends knowing the water you’re entering and not overestimating your swimming abilities.

“If you’re a confident swimmer in a pool setting, that doesn't necessarily translate into a lake or ocean,” he said.

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