By Kirk Winter

Two summers ago, my men’s industrial league soccer team was shocked by the loss of the brother-in-law of one of our players. The individual was a more than competent swimmer and a top flight athlete who chose one gorgeous summer day to go paddle boarding on Lake Huron.

His body was found a day later by the search party who had vainly been hoping to find him alive. The investigators discovered that he had not been wearing a life preserver, and likely fell victim to the stiff under-tows that plague parts of Lake Huron. The investigation stated that there would have likely been no loss of life if a PFD/life jacket had been worn.

The Lifesaving Society of Canada has compiled its 2019 Drowning Report based on 2018 statistics. It's important reading, especially if you're an avid swimmer, boater or recreational water toy user.

Who are the victims?

  • 75% male

  • 25% female

Where do people drown?

  • 43% in a lake or pond

  • 22% in a river

  • 16% in a bathtub

  • 12% in a pool

  • 7% others

  • Only 1% of these individuals drowned in a lifeguard supervised setting.

When do people drown?

  • 64% of Canadian drowning occurs from May to September

What were they doing?

  • 41% swimming

  • 15% walking/running/playing near water

  • 9% power boating

  • 7% fishing from a boat

  • 7% canoeing

  • 3% diving/jumping

Risk factors

  • Children who drown – 95% lacked supervision

  • Young adults – 92% no PFD/life jacket

  • Older adults – 89% no PFD/life jacket

  • Died while boating – 90% no PFD/life jacket

  • Died while swimming – 66% weak or non-swimmers swimming without a partner

High risk groups

The report identified a disturbing new trend involving New Canadians. A disproportionately large number of those who died swimming were recent immigrants to Canada. These individuals overestimated their skill as swimmers, and underestimated the dangers of going into the water.

The Lifesaving Society has been attempting since 2010 to make inroads into these communities to try to spread the message of water safety and the value of being able to swim. They are discovering that cultural and religious morays present are impacting the ability of these individuals and their children to attend and be successful at swimming lessons.

Without the ability to swim, a trip to the beach could be a tragedy looking for a place to happen.