Drowning deaths increase in summer months, Coroners Service investigating four drownings in B.C. in June

Karly Blats, July 6, 2018

The BC Coroners Service is urging residents and visitors to take extra care when they are near rivers, lakes or the ocean. Pictured is the rugged water of Clayoquot Sound. (Eric Plummer photo)

Vancouver Island — 

With the summer months here, Tofino RCMP are reminding residents and visitors about the often unpredictable ocean waves and currents.

The reminder came after a B.C. woman got caught in a current while surfing at Long Beach in Tofino in May and tragically drowned.

“While the ocean offers many wonderful recreational opportunities, it is incumbent on participants in ocean-based activities to educate themselves regarding the risks in order to mitigate them,” read a news release from the Tofino RCMP.

According to data from the BC Coroners Service accidental drowning deaths are most common in the summer months.

The rate of accidental drowning deaths from 2008 to 2016 in B.C. was 1.6 per 100,000 population. Nineteen to 29 year olds accounted for the largest proportion of deaths at 23.7 per cent. Alcohol and/or drugs contributed to 40 per cent of drowning deaths between 2008 and 2015 in B.C.  Boating contributed to 21.8 per cent, swimming 16.8 per cent, and falls into water 16.5 per cent. Most deaths occurred in lakes or ponds (30.9 per cent), rivers or creeks (30 per cent), or the ocean (20.3 per cent).

According to the most current statistics, Vancouver Island saw 147 accidental drowning deaths between 2008 and 2016.

The BC Coroners Service is also urging residents and visitors to take extra care when they are near rivers, lakes or the ocean.

Statistics collected by the BC Coroners Service consistently show a spike in drowning deaths each summer, with the numbers beginning to increase in May, and continuing to rise through August.

In June alone, the BC Coroners Service is investigating four drowning incidents that occurred in B.C. waterways.

The Coroners Service cannot comment on any specific investigation that is underway.

“All boaters and paddlers should wear a personal floatation device, not just have one in the boat with them,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner, in a news release. “Additionally, children, non-swimmers and weak swimmers should wear a PFD anytime they’re in or near the water. People don’t realize how quickly they can get into trouble, particularly when they’re in unfamiliar waters.”

The BC Coroners Service also urges people to avoid mixing alcohol with swimming, boating or any water-based activity.

“This is the time of year when we see too many carefree days on the water turn to tragedy due to alcohol, poor judgment or a momentary lapse in supervision of children,” said Dale Miller, executive director, Lifesaving Society – BC & Yukon Branch. “Although figures are improving, we are working toward a province that is free from drowning.”

The search for three missing Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations fisherman is still underway in Tofino.

Their boat sank in the early morning hours or June 15. Two men were rescued, but Marcel Martin, Carl Martin Jr., and Terrance Brown Jr. still haven’t been found.

The case was handed to the RCMP on June 16 as a missing persons report.