National Drowning Prevention Week marked
As part of National Drowning Prevention Week, July 16-22, Barrie lifeguards staged rescue demonstrations at Centennial Beach Monday morning. This one involved an unconscious man being pulled out of the water and carried to shore by lifeguards. BOB BRUTON photo
Fiona Inkster might owe her life to wearing a life jacket.
As National Drowning Prevention Week kicked off Monday in Barrie, Inkster told of a recent canoeing mishap that would have been much worse had she not been wearing one.
On July 2 of the Canada Day weekend, she and her husband John were canoeing with another couple, in a kayak, on the Seguin River, about five kilometres from Isabella Lake near Parry Sound.
They came around a bend in the river and were surprised by a 20-foot waterfall; they were pitched from their canoe, and went into the river.
She swam to a nearby tree, while John went to the opposite shore.
Their kayaking friends, who did not go over the waterfall, came to help.
“If I had not had that life jacket, I might not have made that trip across the river (to where her husband was),” she said.
Both of them were hurt, however, but if would have been much worse had their life jacket padding not protected them from the rocks in the river.
Inkster said she was bleeding, probably in shock too.
“It kept us warm when we were waiting to be rescued,” she said of the life jackets.
Inkster, a recreation client services supervisor at Allandale Recreation Centre, said canoeing on calm waters with the shores in sight is no guarantee that danger isn't lurking.
“You never know what is around the corner,” she said.
National Drowning Prevention Week is July 16-22, and there were beach rescue demonstrations and speeches Monday morning at Centennial Beach to mark it, along with some sobering statistics.
An average of 500 Canadians drown every year, 160 in Ontario.
“Most of the drownings are preventable,” said Barbara Byers of the Life Saving Society of Ontario, who put emphasis on protecting children.
“It's very important for parents to be their own child's lifeguard,” she said. “Drowning can happen in seconds and it is silent. Keep children within arm's reach.”
Byers also said parents should not be distracted by their cellphones while near water with their children.
Drowning is the number-one cause of unintentional deaths among Canadian children less than nine-years-old.
“It starts at such a young age, teaching our children water safety,” said Alex Nuttall, MP for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte.
Shannon Scully-Pratt of the Canadian Red Cross said this is the sixth year of its partnership with the city for a free PFD (personal floatation device) loan service at Centennial and Johnson's beaches, while lifeguards are on duty, from June 30 to Aug. 20. More than 100 life jackets were loaned out last year.
“It is so important to keep water safety top-of-mind this summer,” Scully-Pratt said. “Not only children should have life jackets in boats, but adults too.”
Approximately 30% of drownings each year (2016 Canadian Drowning Report) occur during boating activities.
The Lifesaving Society designates the third week in July as National Drowning Prevention Week to focus community and media attention on the drowning problem and drowning prevention.