Girl found in Calgary lake and unconscious man pulled from river as rescue crews field dozens of calls
Girl jumped off dock in Mahogany Lake but didn't resurface, while bystanders save man in Harvie Passage
Update July 3, 2021: Police say Oghenefega Mine JohnGold, the 11-year-old girl who was rescued from Mahogany Lake, died in hospital later the same day.
Her family said in a statement that she had hoped to be a doctor when she grew up, and was a passionate singer in her church's children's choir.
The original story appears below.
A girl was airlifted to hospital in critical condition after being pulled from a Calgary lake and an unconscious man was pulled from the Bow River near Harvie Passage on Monday — the same day the Calgary Fire Department urged the public to be more careful after aquatic rescue crews fielded what may have been a record number of calls on the weekend.
In one of the most recent and serious events, a 911 call came in at 2 p.m. Monday reporting a girl had possibly gone missing in Mahogany Lake, a 63-acre lake located in the southeast community of Mahogany.
The dive crew was told the girl had jumped off the dock with friends, but had not resurfaced, according to Carol Henke, public information officer with the Calgary Fire Department. She said it is believed the girl is 11 or 12.
Divers found the girl at a depth of four to 5.5 metres through a grid search of the lake and brought her to the dock, where EMS began CPR. She was taken to the Alberta Children's Hospital by STARS air ambulance in critical condition.
It's not known how long she was underwater. Henke said it was less than an hour from the time the report came in to when she was found.
Bystanders pull unconscious man from Harvie Passage
Later in the day, at about 5 p.m., fire crews responded to reports of an unconscious man who had been pulled from the Harvie Passage area of the Bow River.
He was spotted struggling in the water and bystanders pulled him to shore. The bystanders, who included two off-duty firefighters, began giving him CPR.
When on-duty fire crews arrived, they took over the CPR, used an AED (defibrillator) and gave him oxygen. Then EMS took over and he was taken to hospital.
As that rescue was underway, the fire crew saw a boy in a pool floatie capsize in the river and be dragged downstream. He was not wearing a life jacket.
Firefighters were able to rescue the child by boat and bring him to shore.
Dozens of calls for rescues on weekend
The incidents came on the same day the Calgary Fire Department warned Calgarians to be careful on the water, saying aquatics crews were kept busy with dozens of calls for rescues over the weekend — the most that Henke had ever seen.
Henke warned Monday that some people are taking risks such as using inexpensive rafts that are easily punctured on debris, not wearing life jackets even though they're required under city bylaw or tying rafts together, which makes them difficult to navigate.
And because the water at this time of year is moving fast and very cold, a lot can go wrong.
"[Some people are] not quite familiar with everything you need to have, and how dangerous the water can be if you're not prepared," Henke said.
"It's just a matter of time before something tragic happens, and typically those things can be prevented."
Henke encouraged Calgarians to brush up on basic water safety.
For starters, rafts get caught easily on bridge abutments and the people on them wind up dumped in the water, and tying boats together makes them easily snarled. Oars are needed to manoeuvre around obstacles.
Those who opt to leave their life jacket in their raft instead of wearing it discover they can't reach for it, or put it on fast enough when they are suddenly submerged in fast, freezing water.
Drinking alcohol blunts judgment in the event of an emergency, and its effects are exacerbated in the heat.
The notorious channel on the Bow River called Harvie Passage by Inglewood— which was remodelled for safety after the flood in 2013 closed it for five years — remains "a real hazard" that is prone to flipping rafts, Henke said.
And because people are parking in zones where they are not supposed to, crews cannot urgently respond to emergencies.
"I can't impress enough how important it is to keep those areas clear," Henke said.
"We cannot launch our boats quickly, to do a rescue in a timely manner, when people are blocking those areas. So please, if there's a 'no parking' sign, that means no parking."
Hefty fines for breaking the rules
According to inspector Brad Johnson with Calgary Bylaw Services, broken rules can be costly. Calgary's water safety bylaw mandates that a ticket for failing to wear a life jacket or personal flotation device includes a mandatory court appearance and up to $500 in fines.
Littering, drinking and transporting liquor on waterways also come with hefty fines.
The City of Calgary posted tips for Calgarians to stay safe. They include:
- Scouting the waterway for potential hazards and checking weather and water conditions.
- Assessing the level of danger. Watch for waterway advisories at calgary.ca/watersafety and ask about the swimming and paddling skills of your group.
If you decide to go on a waterway, make sure you have:
- A watercraft that is appropriate for the waterway, and meets your weight capacity or that of your group.
- Proper paddles or oars to help you control your watercraft and steer around bridge pillars.
- Correctly fitting life jackets or personal flotation devices for everyone.
- A water safety kit, which is required by Transport Canada on all types of watercraft, including kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, dinghies, inner tubes and rafts. Kits must include:
- A bailing device.
- A sound-signaling device (portable air horn, whistle, mechanical whistle or bell).
- At least 15 metres of heaving rope, towing line or floating line.
- A waterproof LED flashlight and SOS mirror to call or signal for help.
The city also recommends people take:
- A cellphone and clothing in a waterproof bag.
- Water to stay hydrated.
- Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen to stay comfortable.
With files from Hannah Kost and Helen Pike