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‘Concerning number already’: RCMP urge water safety as provincial drowning death toll rises to 15

The Calgary Fire Department rescue boat patrols the Bow River as high water levels sparked an advisory in June. (PHOTO: Tom Ross, 660 NEWS)

CALGARY — It’s a sad ending for some families to what should have been a fun day at the lake. Fifteen Albertans have drowned so far this year according to RCMP.

“That’s a concerning number already for this year because we’re not through a complete year,” said Staff Sgt. Brent Meyer.

Meyer says he understands how people are itching to get out and experience the great outdoors with the recent warm weather and eased restrictions; however, he adds the conversation surrounding water safety needs to take place before someone packs up and heads to the lake.

“When you’re packing up everything for the day — chairs, snacks, towels, you need to have life jackets, or flotation devices too (along with starting) that conversation with the people you’re travelling with about their own (water) capabilities,” Meyer said.

“Can all of them swim? Do any of them not like the water? Do some of them not like having their head put underwater or pushed underwater when horseplay (happens) with kids? Those are important things to know about your nieces and nephews or loved ones when you head out.”


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Even with a life jacket or flotation device packed up, Meyer explained it’s not a “one size fits all” scenario and that every child or adult would wear different sizes depending on their height and weight.

“Having a huge life jacket on a small child will do nothing to save them when they’re in the water by themselves. Because if it slips off over their head or up to their shoulders, there’s no use to them.”

Last year there were 18 deaths, while back in 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016 there were 13, 16, 21, and 13 deaths respectively.

At any age, Meyer emphasized there’s no time like the present to learn how to swim. Adding that if lessons aren’t an option to stay within your comfort level when it comes to bodies of water.

“If you can’t swim, don’t get out in deep water. If you’re at a river, understand that there is swift water there, and though it may look peaceful, it’s very powerful. The debris in a river that’s submerged is dangerous (and you should also take into account) the riverbed is constantly changing with the flow and volume of water that’s heading down the channel.”

Sunday marks National Drowning prevention week.