'One of us should have gone,' uncle and employer says after 2 young Winnipeg men drown at Kenora

Two young Winnipeg men drowned in Lake of the Woods at Kenora during what was supposed to be a day trip. The uncle of one of the men says someone with more experience with water should have gone along.

Pawan Preet Brar, 20, and Arwinder Brar, 19, planned a day trip to Lake of the Woods

Pawan Preet Brar, left, and Arwinder Brar drowned in Kenora, Ont., on Thursday. (Left: Prestige Portraits/Submitted by Darshan Kaila. Right: GoFundMe)

The employer of two young Winnipeg men who drowned in Lake of the Woods this week is urging newcomers to Canada to take extra precautions when they visit bodies of water.

Pawan Preet Brar, 20, and 19-year-old Arwinder Brar died after an apparent fall into Lake of the Woods at Kenora, Ont., on Thursday.

Ontario Provincial Police initially responded to a call about swimmers in distress. OPP divers recovered the bodies of both men by Friday.

Both young men worked at the Tux Beer Store at the Hilton Garden Inn in the Seasons of Tuxedo development. They both immigrated to Canada within the past six years and had little experience with lakes, said Darshan Kaila, who owns the Hilton Garden Inn and is the uncle of Pawan Preet Brar.

Darshan Kaila, the uncle of one of two Winnipeg men who drowned near Kenora, is urging young newcomers to only go to lakes with someone who has experience with the water. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

"They were planning to go on the lake for a day. I was discouraging them. I said it was not enough time to go for a day, because it was so far," Kaila said Saturday, standing in the lobby of his South Tuxedo hotel.

"My advice is, please, all the newcomers, I know there is Google and you can look for everything, you guys are smart and well-educated, but still you need someone's advice or somebody with you guys when you are near a lake or camping."

Kaila said Pawan Preet and Arwinder Brar went to Kenora with five friends — three other men and two women — and were supposed to return in time for their shifts at the beer store on Thursday.

Kaila said he was told one fell in on the water while standing on loose rock near the edge of the lake. The second man fell in while trying to save him, he said.

"I don't know why they ended up there, why the two of them drowned. I still have a lot of questions," he said.

Rescue workers searched under the railbridge in Kenora, Ont., that runs alongside Lakeview Drive between Kenora Bay and Rideout Bay to find two people who were reported to be in distress in the water. Their bodies were recovered Friday night. (CBC)

A third friend jumped in the water in an effort to save the men, but did not get more than a few metres, Kaila said.

He said he was told a bystander who was fishing also tried to save the men, but was carried by the current and wound up hospitalized.

"He barely made it," said Kaila, who is hoping to contact the bystander and thank him. "He was kind enough to jump in to try to save them. He could not do it, but he put his life in big danger."

Watch as rescue workers searched the waters around McLeod Park on Thursday:

OPP in Kenora investigating possible drowning

3 years ago
OPP in Kenora investigating possible drowning 0:28

Kaila said he has known Parwan Preet Bar since his nephew was born and sponsored his family's immigration to Manitoba through the provincial nominee program.

He said he brought the family to Canada "to have a better education, have a better life [and] live in a better country."

He said his nephew was undergoing a background check to become a Winnipeg police cadet and was in the process of choosing between that training or work as a corrections officer.

Kaila also said Parwan Preet Brar served an indispensable role at a wedding last weekend, when Kaila's son got married.

"It's a great loss. It's very hard on all of us and on the family," Kaila said.

"It's a loss we cannot recover. I don't know how we can cope in our life. But we're trying our best to pray and get help from God."

Sumandeep Singh, who worked with both men at the beer store at the Hilton Garden Inn, said he's still in shock. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Kaila also described Arwinder Brar as an honest, hard worker.

Sumandeep Singh, who worked with both men at the Tux Beer Store, called their deaths a loss.

"I'm still in shock. Like, how has this happened?" Singh asked at the store on Saturday. 

Kaila said he regrets the fact no one with more experience with water accompanied the men to Kenora.

"Why didn't we send somebody living here longer who had knowledge of the lake and water?" he asked.

"One of us should have gone. It would not have happened. It's too late."

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With files from Ian Froese