News Local

Recent drowning highlights need for water safety

By JT McVeigh, The Enterprise-Bulletin

In the first eight days of July five people have drowned in central Ontario and for OPP Sgt. Peter Leon that is beyond worrying.

On Saturday, two men drowned in a boating accident in Wasaga Beach after the dinghy that they were riding in flipped when it reached the mouth of the Nottawasaga River and Georgian Bay.

With the increased flow of the Nottawasaga because of the huge amount of rain the area has received, meeting with the churning waters of Georgian Bay with waves created by high winds cresting at two metres according to police involved in the rescue, the two men were thrown into the water.

Neither victim was wearing a life jacket.

“In Wasaga Beach you are floating down the river where it is controlled, but when you get to the mouth you are dealing with on-shore winds, and in talking to one of the marine guys that responded to the call, they were dealing with seven-foot waves,” said Leon. “So you have those waves coming ashore, where you have a significant river system that is basically the drainage point for the watershed in this area, so you have some very challenging water that even the best of swimmers would have had difficulty with.”

Firefighters, police officers and Ontario Parks wardens recovered the bodies of the two men from the water. Simcoe County paramedics attempted to revive the men with CPR and other life-saving measures, but failed, said Wasaga Fire Chief Mike McWilliam.

Police have identified the victims as Nimit Sharma, 26, of Collingwood and Dilvinder Lakhanpal, 27, of Caledon.

The numbers of fatalities in such a short period of time shocked Leon.

The Lifesaving Society of Ontario reports 38 swimmers and 14 boaters have lost their lives this year to drowning.

At this time last year, there were 46 total drownings.

What concerns Leon is that people aren’t taking time to realize that the waters in Ontario are a lot different this year.

The increase in rainfall, the cooler temperatures have left rivers and lakes a lot colder and a lot deeper Leon says.

“One of the things we are putting forward is that people have to be aware of the conditions that they are swimming in. They need to be aware of where there is possible undertows or stronger currents,” Leon said. “At the fatality in the Green River, the pictures that I saw were that the water was really rushing by and there was a pretty strong undercurrent. The deceased was located in about 35 feet of water. What may look okay on the surface could be very different down below.

“I think that people should be afraid of the water and gain respect for the water, because water gives life but it can also take life very, very quickly as well,” he added.

Common sense should dictate behaviour on the water, he suggests.

“If people aren’t strong swimmers is it really that bad to put on a PFD which will give you a chance if you do get into some kind of trouble,” Leon asked rhetorically.

Boaters should heed the warning as well he added.

“The sad part is that in the first 10 days of this month we have lost five lives just in this immediate area and those are families that are affected, impacted by what has taken place.

“There are a lot of different people affected now by five very different circumstances, but it all comes down to one thing. If people were wearing a PFD we probably wouldn’t be talking right now.”


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