The father of a 19-year-old man who drowned at St. Malo Provincial Park beach wants an inquiry into his death.
Calvin Dueck was swimming at the beach on Aug. 9 when he became tangled in seaweed and drowned, according to his father Mervin Dueck.
“His feet got entangled in that, and as a result, he couldn’t swim properly,” said Mervin. “A certain amount of panic sets in, and he ended up drowning.”
Mervin said his 19-year-old son was athletic and a strong swimmer.
“He was the top catcher in Manitoba at his age and probably one of the top catchers to ever come out of southern Manitoba,” said Mervin. “He accomplished a lot in his 19 years. [I] wish there would have been a lot more. I was looking forward to it.”
For years, Calvin played with the Altona Bison’s baseball team.
The day he died, Calvin was with a friend who was a lifeguard, and he was swimming within the buoy lines installed by the province.
According to Mervin, rescuers had difficulty freeing Calvin from the seaweed and pulling his body to shore.
“It’s difficult to take [that] a healthy, athletic person would drown because of seaweed,” he said. “We feel strongly that if it can’t be dealt with and it’s a hazard, there should be no swimming at the beach.”
Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh said officials will be visiting the beach on Tuesday to check for hazards.
He said if they do find seaweed to be a hazard, the province will deal with it.
“If there’s any problem encountered, I’m going to want immediate action. If that means we have to temporarily close part of the beach or more, then we’ll have to do that,” said Mackintosh.
Mervin said he has heard other people have died in the province due to seaweed entanglement and wants an inquiry into the safety of St. Malo's beach.
“How the seaweed can be dealt with — that to me is the biggest issue. To me, it would seem like a relatively simple solution, but why isn’t it being done?” he said.
Carl Shier is with Lifesaving Society Manitoba and said often, people can swim through seaweed, but it can be a contributing factor to drowning.
Shier said it was likely a combination of exhaustion, panic and swallowing water that lead to Calvin’s death.
According to officials with the Canadian Drowning Prevention Research Centre drowning from seaweed entanglement is so rare in Manitoba, the agency does not track the numbers.