Many immigrants can't swim, says safety society
After a suspected drowning of a Nigerian student this week, a safety group says newcomers to Canada often can't swim and don't know enough about water safety, and it's a serious problem that they're trying to fix.
Uzochukwu Chinemelu, 22, died after jumping into a popular swimming hole west of Saint John Wednesday.
His death comes less than a year after a Chinese student died in a swimming accident at the Saint John Aquatic Centre.
Witnesses said he was found at the bottom of the pool during a public swim.
The coroner's office has yet to release its report on that investigation.
Wayne Pollock, Musquash fire chief, says the area in which Chinemelu, a former student at the University of New Brunswick Saint John, drowned has always been a popular place for swimming, fishing and daring acts.
"Word gets around. Everybody hears about the gorge down in Musquash and down they come," he said.
The Musquash fire department says it is 12 metres from the top of the railing to the top of the water, and the water is six metres deep under that.
Chinemelu’s friend, Victor Okacha, told CBC News he was there when Chinemelu jumped and didn't come to the surface.
Okacha said he tried to find his friend but the water was too murky and he couldn't see a thing.
Chinemelu couldn't swim, he said.
Classes for immigrants
The LifeSaving Society of Canada is now offering courses designed to help immigrants and their children.
It wants to make swimming part of the school curriculum mandatory so that no one gets missed.
The society is also collecting coroner's reports to quantify whether immigrants are drowning more often than Canada-born citizens.
"As we learned from anecdotal evidence, from a number of drownings in the early 2000s, that many of those people who drowned were new to Canada," said Barbara Byers, public education director for The Lifesaving Society.
"And in interviews with their family members, many of their family members said, ‘We had no idea. We had no idea how important it is to learn to swim. We came to Canada. It was hot. We wanted to go swimming,’" Byers added.
A private memorial service will be held for Chinemelu Sunday.