Lifesaving Society urges caution after recent deaths on Sask.  lakes
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Lifesaving Society urges caution after recent deaths on Sask. lakes

By Teena Monteleone

For the third time in less than a week, a life has been lost on a Saskatchewan lake.

Most recently, a 61-year-old boater from Buffalo Narrows was found deceased after he went missing on Friday. Police found the man’s boat idling in Peter Pond Lake and discovered his body in the water a day later.

A missing paddleboarder entered the water in Lake Diefenbaker at Douglas Provincial Park on Sunday and did not resurface. And the body of a teenage canoeist who went missing Wednesday after his boat tipped was recovered from Helene Lake, around 80 kilometres north of North Battleford.

The Lifesaving Society conducts comprehensive research into the cause of both Saskatchewan and Canada’s drowning incidents every year. Shelby Rushton, CEO of the Saskatchewan branch, said there are several reasons why someone may not resurface after they enter the water.

“They could hit their head on a boat or rock. Lakes in these provinces are really, really cold. So if you’re not expecting to go in and all of a sudden you tip over, you could have that cold water response where you go to suck in air because you’re cold, but unfortunately you suck in water and then you go unconscious ,” she said.

“There could also be weeds or maybe a tree under the water that you can’t see that you could get stuck on or under.”

Rushton said people in the water can get caught in underwater situations and currents as well.

Lifesaving Society urges caution after recent deaths on Sask.  lakes

Infographic from the 2024 Drowning Report for Saskatchewan. (Lifesaving Society/Drowning Prevention Research Centre Canada)

Over the last decade, Saskatchewan has seen an average of about 24 drowning deaths per year. A report from the Drowning Prevention Research Centre Canada shows 53 per cent of the drownings occur in a lake or pond, 27 per cent in a river, and six per cent in a bathtub. The biggest risk factors include not wearing a life jacket, alcohol consumption, being alone and being a weak swimmer.

When someone goes under and doesn’t resurface, or if someone is struggling in the water, Rushton said the best thing a bystander can do is call 911.

“We can get people that are more experts in water rescue to go out and assist that swimmer or boater. “We really don’t want people, unless they’re trained in water rescue, to try and swim out and rescue them,” she said.

“If you do have a boat, you could boat out there with some inflatable objects like a life jacket or swim noodle that is on the beach. But just running out if you’re not a trained rescuer is not a good idea, because you could end up as a victim yourself.”

Parents were also cautioned to monitor their children on inflatable toys, because the wind can push them away from shore and they could end up floating away.

While accidents happen, many water-related fatalities are preventable. Rushton encouraged anyone heading out onto the water not to become complacent when it comes to simple safety measures like life jackets.