North Vancouver drowning prompts questions about water safety

A man in his 20s drowned in a North Vancouver lake over the weekend. It comes as a toddler fights for his life in hospital after nearly drowning in a lake in Chilliwack last week, Sarah Chew hears from experts about water safety.

A man in his twenties drowned in North Vancouver’s Rice Lake over the weekend where swimming is not allowed.

Mounties say he had been swimming in the lake with his friends when he started struggling in the water.

“Efforts were made by the friends to get him out of the water and they realized that he wasn’t breathing. CPR was conducted, lifesaving efforts were done by the friends, along with the fire department and ultimately by the BC ambulance. Sadly he succumbed to his injuries, so he died on scene,” Cst. Mansoor Sahak explained.

North Vancouverites who regularly visit the nature preserve say they’re shocked.

“Although it’s accessible, the shoreline is often a little rugged and it drops off pretty quickly to deeper water or difficult terrain to play on so it’s not the kind of place you’d come to swim,” said Mark Hopkins, a 14 year resident of the North Shore.

“It’s a little murky too, a little slimy. I don’t know if you’d want to swim in here, there’s fish hooks, lines and things like that,” said Loni Westcott, who often goes fishing at Rice Lake.

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This comes days after a toddler was pulled from Cultus Lake in Chilliwack, he’s now in hospital.

So far in 2023, seven people have died by drowning in B.C. and Yukon according to the Lifesaving Society, which adds most were men who died through risky behaviour like boating while drunk or not wearing a lifejacket.

There could be debris in the water that you can’t see, there could be undertows under the water, swift-moving currents, changing tides – all of these things can impact even the strongest swimmer,” said Program Manager of Swimming and Lifesaving Kimiko Hirakida.

She says being able to swim in a pool isn’t the same as swimming in open water, so she warns B.C. residents and visitors to assess the area before plunging in.

“Check the water. What are your surroundings? Do you have a cell phone signal in case you need to call for help? Are there other people around the water that you could utilize if you need help?”

As people flock to B.C.’s lakes and the ocean this spring and summer, the RCMP urges people to be careful and know their limits.

“We want people to come out and explore the nature here but again there’s that hidden danger with that and this case has sadly proven that,” Sahak added.

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