News

So far this year 65 people have drowned in Ontario, up from 50 by this time last year

Dale Carruthers

By Dale Carruthers, The London Free Press

(File photo)

(File photo)

A scorching hot summer is partially to blame for a surge in drowning deaths across the province, an expert says.

Southwestern Ontario recorded its fourth water fatality over the long weekend, matching the region’s drowning count for all 2015.

As the mercury has spiked, sending people flocking to beaches, cottages and pools, so, too, has the death toll. Already this year 65 people have drowned in Ontario — including people who’ve fallen from boats or died in bathtubs — up from 50 by the same time last year, according to an organization that promotes water safety and tracks drowning deaths.

“Years where we had hot dry summers, there are more drownings than the cooler, rainy summers,” said Barbara Byers, a public education director at the Lifesaving Society of Canada.

So far, 20 Ontario swimmers have drowned this year, including three in the London region, compared with 12 last year, Byers said.

The Ontario Drowning Report 2016 edition found July is the deadliest month, with more than half of water deaths happening on weekends, including Friday.

Eight out of 10 drowning victims are men, with those between the age of 20 and 24 the most at risk, said the four-page report that used data from the coroner’s office from 2009 to 2013.

The report lists lakes as the most dangerous place — nearly half of all drownings happen there — followed by rivers and streams, then bathtubs.

“We’re a country full of fresh water,” Byers said. “That’s where that unsupervised water is.”

Canadian Red Cross water-safety expert Shannon Scully-Pratt said fewer than one per cent of drownings occur in waters supervised by lifeguards.

Even strong swimmers are at risk of drowning, she said, especially when they’re in unfamiliar waters.

“Understanding where you go swimming is really important,” she said. “I urge visitors to new locations to ask questions to the locals to find out more about the waters that they’re about to swim in (and) make sure that they follow the rules and the signage that might be posted at the locations that they’re swimming in.”

Scully-Pratt said she hopes the recent deaths draw more attention to the importance of water safety.

“We’re urging Canadians to take a look at these tragedies that have happened and personally reflect upon those tragedies and try to learn from each one,” she said. “It’s so important to take these as reminders to keep water safety top of mind this year.”

dcarruthers@postmedia.com

twitter.com/DaleatLFPress 

THE VICTIMS

  • Laura Del-Bel, 56, of Farmington Hills, Mich., disappeared Sunday while swimming near a boat on Lake Erie near Colchester Harbour in Essex County. Her body was recovered a day later.
  • Samsondeen Yusuf, 22, of Windsor went missing from a boat on the St. Clair River on July 24. His body was recovered the next day.
  • A 76-year-old man snorkelling with two other men at Canatara Park beach in Sarnia was found floating face-down on July 21. He died at hospital.
  • William Johnston, 18, of Ingersoll, went below the surface while swimming in rough waters at Port Stanley on July 13. His body was recovered three days later.