Drowning victim's friend wants people to think twice
Jacob Rutzen-Gibbs drowned in Alouette Lake despite Jennifer Partridge's efforts to save him
The warnings are loud and clear when it comes to water safety, but as the number of drownings in B.C. continues to climb, a woman who attempted to save her friend is speaking out.
Jacob Rutzen-Gibbs, 21, drowned in Alouette Lake in Maple Ridge last week, as he tried to make it back to shore.
"Someone told me drowning is the silent killer because it's not like it is in the movies. People aren't really screaming for help," said Jennifer Partridge in an interview with Kathryn Gretsinger on CBC Radio's The Early Edition.
Partridge and Rutzen-Gibbs were with friends when they arrived at Golden Ears Park in the afternoon. They had a barbecue on the beach before they headed out on their "floaties," which they had tied up to the rope used to outline the swimming area of the lake, about 50 yards from shore.
Rutzen-Gibbs had decided to swim back from the floaties, and Partridge was just behind him when she heard him start calling for help.
Couldn't pull her friend out
"I went to help him, but because he's so tall, it was a struggle," said Partridge.
Every time Partridge tried to pull her 6'3'' friend out of the water, she felt herself sinking. She tried calling to the people on the shore for help, but no one came.
Partridge, short on breath, decided to leave Rutzen-Gibbs in the water and try to call for help.
After repeated panicked attempts to call 911, Partridge said she finally realized someone from Golden Ears Park patrol had called emergency services.
Partridge says the experience has changed the way she and her group of friends think about going into the water.
"I'm not saying 'don't go to the beach', obviously," said Partridge, but she wants people to think twice about how strong their swimming skills are, whether there is a list of emergency contacts, and who if anyone has CPR and life-saving skills.
Cell service spotty
Partridge would also like to see some improvements to water safety at Alouette Lake.
She says she was surprised to see no life preservers on scene, and with limited cell phone service at the lake, she's also calling for the area where cell service is available to be clearly marked.
At least 46 people have died in B.C. waters this year, up from 30 the same time last year.
Officials say the run of hot weather across British Columbia may be partly to blame for the spike in drownings in the province this summer.
They are warning people never to mix alcohol with water sports, to take all necessary precautions, and to avoid risky activities like cliff jumping.