Quebec schools should make swimming and water safety lessons part of their curriculum, the provincial coroner recommended in a report on two 2005 drownings in theRivière Rouge.

Quebec coroner Andrée Kromström, who released the report Thursday,said it is essential that people know about the dangers of swimming in a province with so many lakes and rivers— and that education should start at school, she said.

"It's important, like learning how to work and walk. It's part of our lifestyle," Kromström said at a news conference in Quebec City.

More drownings could be prevented if people knew how to swim better and had basic lifesaving skills to escape dangerous situations in the water,she said.

In her report, she has asked the provincial Education Ministryto include regular Red Cross-style swimming and water safety instruction at schools.

The report also recommends that communities bordering rivers install signs to warn swimmers of potential dangers.

Kromströmwas looking into two cases of Quebecers who drowned within days of each other in July 2005 in the Rivière Rouge in the Laurentians region.

On July 11, 2005, Brigitte Gosselin, 43,went for a swim with her sister at Conception Beach.

She wandered away from the shore and got carried away downstream by an undertow. Her body was eventually found under about five metresof water in the middle of the river.

Five days later, Carl Girard, 31,and his girlfriend decided to go for a swim while on a camping trip.

They were both quickly overwhelmed by the current, and while she managed to scramble back to the shore, Girard was pulled to the middle of the river. His body was found about 45 metres from shore.

In Quebec, 136 people drowned in rivers between 2001 and 2005.

With files from the Canadian Press