A young man who was found unresponsive in the water at Britannia Beach Saturday afternoon has died, police have confirmed.

Paramedics said the man was found floating face down in the Ottawa River around 3 p.m.

Lifeguards pulled him to the shore, where he was given CPR and then taken to hospital.

Ottawa police told Radio-Canada Sunday afternoon that he had died. The 23-year-old victim is not from Ottawa and his name will not be released.

Screaming for help

Melissa Filadelfi was swimming at Britannia Beach Saturday afternoon when she heard a young boy at the edge of the cordoned-off swimming zone screaming for help.

The boy had come across the unresponsive victim in the water and was trying to bring him to safety, Filadelfi said.

"It was shocking to see it first-hand," she said. "My first instinct was basically to get the lifeguards to know that there's someone that needs help."

Filadelfi said off-call doctors tried to resuscitate him once he was back on the shore, performing CPR for about 20 minutes until he was taken away in an ambulance.

She thought it was possible he had somehow drifted into the secure area.

"Maybe he hit his head on a rock and then floated toward the beach. He could've came from one of the boats, also. We're really not sure."

55th drowning death this year in Ontario

Prior to the young man's death, there had been 54 drowning-related fatalities this year in Ontario — six more than at the same time in 2016, according to the Lifesaving Society, a water safety advocacy charity. 

Chris Wagg, vice-president of the society's Ontario chapter, said there had not been any drownings within the supervised areas at City of Ottawa beaches in 2017.

"This is why we're saying, stay within the buoy lines and where the lifeguards are. They're there to help you," said Wagg, speaking before the death was confirmed.

Officials have not yet said whether the victim was inside or outside the buoys when he was found unconscious.

chris wagg britannia beach lifesaving society ottawa july 16 2017

Chris Wagg, the vice-president for the Ontario chapter of the Lifesaving Society, says that Ottawans are lucky to have trained lifeguards working from noon to 7 p.m. at city beaches. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Beachgoers weigh in

Municipal beaches are staffed with trained lifeguards from 12 to 7 p.m., Wagg said. A sign posted at Britannia Beach specifically warns beachgoers of "extremely dangerous fast-moving water currents" along that particular stretch of the Ottawa River.

Susan Goslin was at the beach Sunday with her four-year-old daughter and her three 18-month-old triplets.

The former lifeguard said her family always swam within the buoy line and she didn't have any undue concern for her children's safety.

'Keep your wits about you, and don't assume that there's not a risk.' - Gib van Ert, parent

"I know what training [lifeguards] go through. And I am 100 per cent confident with the skills that would be at the beach today. I would never hesitate to bring my family here," she said.

Gib van Ert brought his son and daughter to Britannia Beach as well, and said he considered it important to instill in them a healthy respect for open water.

"It's usually not going to be dangerous. But it always has the potential to be dangerous," he said.

"And so, keep your wits about you and don't assume that there's not a risk — because there's always a little risk."

gib van ert britannia beach ottawa july 16 2017

Gib van Ert, left, says he tries to teach his daughter Beatrice to respect the dangers that water can pose. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Drowning prevention week

The death comes at the same time that National Drowning Prevention Week is kicking off across the country.

Wagg said two of the Lifesaving Society's priorities this week will be to show people how to pick the right personal floatation device and to teach parents to always keep children under five within arm's reach while they're in the water.

The organization is also preparing to launch a water safety website for new Canadian immigrants this week that will include interactive video and materials in English, French, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog and Hindi.

Research done by the society has found that, on average, new Canadians are less likely to know how to swim than other portions of the population.

"Perhaps outside of Canada, they weren't involved in water safety activities," Wagg said. "So [we're] encouraging them to swim within supervised areas."

britannia beach

A City of Ottawa sign at Britannia Beach warns of fast-moving currents outside of the supervised swimming area. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story stated the victim was in his late teens, based on information provided by paramedics. Police later told CBC News the victim was 23 years old.
    Jul 17, 2017 10:35 AM ET
With files from Antoine Trepanier