Cluster of summer Alberta drowning deaths have authorities urging water vigilance


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Alberta RCMP responded to 15 drownings so far this year, prompting police to remind everyone to be more vigilant when it comes to water safety on provincial lakes and rivers.

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“Just looking at the numbers in 2021, it’s not a complete year of data and it’s high already,” said Staff Sgt. Brent Meyer, with the Central Alberta District RCMP.

A father died Wednesday night in Leduc County after saving his nine-year-old son from drowning in Wizard Lake but then disappearing from the surface. His body was recovered Thursday by rescue crews.

In 2016, according to Alberta RCMP numbers, officers responded to 13 drownings; in 2017, there were 21; in 2018 there were 16; in 2019 there were 13; and in 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, they responded to 18.

Meyer said that 81 per cent of the cases within the RCMP’s jurisdiction have occurred on a lake or a river. And while he cannot speak to the specifics of every case, he said one causes is people getting out of familiar water environments to ones that are beyond their capabilities.

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In 77 per cent of the case, the victims were over the age of 20 and just under 80 per cent of them were male.

“It’s completely tragic for families to have to go through events like this, no one goes out for a fun adventure on the water and expects they’re not going to come home with their loved one,” Meyer said.

But drownings are preventable.

Meyer suggests that even before heading out for the day, keep in mind what can keep you safe in the water; if you have young ones, for example, make sure they have life jackets on. Another key thing to keep in mind is knowing the swim capabilities of everyone heading out.

“The excitement of group activities can sometimes drive people to push those limits and in reality, they’ve never had that comfort beforehand,” Meyer said.

Whenever possible, swim with a buddy and make sure one of you is a responsible swimmer.

Then there is boating safety and ensuring that anyone driving a boat has a pleasure craft operator’s licence. Everyone on a boat should always have a life jacket.

“The amount of times I’ve seen people out on the water and not have something is way too many,” Meyer said.

Finally, alcohol and water activities are a bad mix, with impairment affecting “your decision making, your reason, and your judgment,” said Meyer.