Manitoba

'Drowning is very, very silent': Lifesaving Society urges parents to actively supervise kids

Someone can drown in 10 seconds, according to the Lifesaving Society of Manitoba.

An 11-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy drowned at Grand Beach on Monday

Someone can drown in 10 seconds, according to the Lifesaving Society of Manitoba. (CBC)

Someone can drown in 10 seconds, according to the Lifesaving Society of Manitoba.

On Monday, two Winnipeg children — an 11-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy — drowned at Grand Beach. The two children were in the water together and were being supervised by the parents of the 12-year-old boy when one of the parents lost track of the kids due to the setting sun, RCMP said.

Chris Love, the Water Smart co-ordinator for the Lifesaving Society, said although Grand Beach may seem shallow, all a person needs to drown is enough water to cover their mouth and nose.

"If you are not prepared for it, you suck back. Even an adult can down in those conditions even though it might only be shin-deep water for that adult at that time," he said.

The tragic drowning has people asking about water safety, specifically on Manitoba's popular beaches.

More than 100,000 lakes and only 3 staffed beaches

There are more than 100,000 lakes in the provincial parks, but there are only three staffed beaches — Grand Beach, Winnipeg Beach and Birds Hill Park — according to the province's website.

Those three popular beaches have Beach Safety Officers who patrol the beach, search for missing people, do first aid, and provide water rescues. But the officers are not lifeguards and do not supervise the swimming area.

There have been no lifeguards at Grand Beach since the late 80s after an inquest into a drowning in a provincial park, a provincial spokesperson told CBC. The inquest report said the presence of lifeguards provided a false sense of security.

The last drowning at Grand Beach was in 1990, the spokesperson said.

@GrandMaraisMB Cottage Rentals tweeted this photo of a STARS air ambulance landing near the shoreline in Grand Beach, Man., Monday night. (@GrandMaraisMB)
There were 139 unintentional water-related fatalities in Manitoba between 2008 and 2012," according to the 2015 Manitoba Drowning Report by the Lifesaving Society of Canada.

There were 15 water-related fatalities in Manitoba in 2014 and nine in 2015. At least two people drowned in Manitoba in July 2016.

In Manitoba, most people drown in lakes, followed by rivers and streams, the report said, adding that drowning in lifeguard supervised settings were rare.

Drowning not like on TV

Parents often think they can read a book and if something happens in the water they'll hear their child yelling but that's just not the case, Love said.

"Unfortunately, unlike the movies, unlike TV drowning is very, very silent. It's very, very fast and it can happen without anyone noticing," he said, adding most people don't have time to yell out.

"They will spend about 90 per cent of their time below the surface. So depending upon the water quality, you may not be able to see them when they are actually drowning."

Love said that's why it's important to practice active supervision which means small children should be kept within reach. For older children, Love said parents should make sure they know where the children are and what's going on at all times.

The major risk factors contributing to children under five drowning was being alone near water and having distracted supervision, according to the Life Saving reports. For kids between the ages of five and 14 the major contributing factor was the children being left to swim with only other minors.

Love said the ideal situation would be lifeguards and supervision zones anywhere that a large number of people go swimming but "even if you have all the supervision in the world, people do have to keep in mind that they are responsible for their own safety."

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