Fire chiefs urge water safety following recent island drowning
A young man is seen getting wheeled out of Thetis Lake on a stretcher after sustaining a head injury that left him unconscious in the water after jumping off of a cliff: July 22, 2020 (CTV News)
VICTORIA -- July 19 to 25 marks National Drowning Prevention Week, and so far here on Vancouver Island, we have no reason to celebrate.
On Tuesday night, a young woman tragically drowned in Matheson Lake in Metchosin. Then, one day later, on Wednesday night, a young man had to be rescued from the waters of Thetis Lake.
Thankfully, he was pulled to safety after jumping off lakeside cliffs and sustaining a head injury, which left him unconscious in the water.
Now, first responders are sounding the alarm.
“This sounds like a story that everyone has heard over and over again,” said Fire Chief Paul Hurst of the View Royal Fire Department.
Those comments were made after the injured man at Thetis Lake was wheeled out on a stretcher by West Shore first responders.
The man is only alive today because he was rescued by a passerby on a paddleboard, say first responders.
“Thankfully somebody was able to pull him out of the water,” said Hurst.
“Reports are, he was unconscious when he hit the water. If there weren’t people there, then we would have ended up with a drowning.”
This incident falls on the heels of that tragic drowning in Matheson Lake.
“When we finally reached the patient there were bystanders there doing compressions on her already and we just proceeded with our typical medical protocols in that situation,” said Fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop of the Metchosin Fire Department.
“We were able to get our rescue boat there right next to her and load her up. We then took her over to the ambulance that was waiting nearby and they took her off to the hospital,” she sad.
That 32-year-old women later lost her life.
“This is national drowning prevention week,” said Dale Miller, executive director of the BC-Yukon branch of the Life Saving Society.
“We choose the third week in July mainly because our statistics over the years have shown that this is the week with the highest number of drownings in Canada, and also British Columbia in particular.”
He went on to say that so far this year, there have been four drownings on Vancouver Island and a total of 17 across the province.
“Now if we compare that to previous years, we’re seeing a downward trend which is excellent, but it’s still 17 too many this year,” said Miller.
Local fire chiefs have a message for lake users as we head into another weekend of warm weather.
“It’s just knowing where you are, knowing your surroundings, knowing what the safety precautions are that you should be thinking about,” said Dunlop.
“Always go swimming with friends and remember, alcohol, drugs and water don’t always mix.”
View Royal’s Fire Chief has a much sterner message.
“Don’t jump off the cliffs,” said Hurst. “Stay away from the cliffs, it’s dangerous. You’re going to kill yourself.”