Montreal

Rise in drownings prompts authorities to urge caution on water

A spate of recent drowning deaths, including that of a four-year-old boy in a Laval pool Sunday, has prompted the Lifesaving Society to remind people of the importance of water safety.

Lifesaving Society warns Quebecers following spate of drowning deaths

A search and rescue operation was launched Monday in the St. Lawrence River, along the South Shore near the Champlain Bridge. (Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada)

A spate of recent drowning deaths, including that of a four-year-old boy in a Laval pool Sunday, has prompted the Lifesaving Society to remind people of the importance of water safety.

On Monday, there was another incident.

A rowboat capsized in the St. Lawrence River, sending two men into the water.

While rescue services from both Montreal and Longueuil were able to pull one of the men to safety, another is still missing.

At this time last year, there were 22 drowning deaths across the province. This year there are already 28, representing an increase of about 20 per cent. 

"Yes, this is a dramatic situation, but, if we want to compare with other years, we are close," said Raynald Hawkins, executive director of the Lifesaving Society's Quebec branch.

Raynald Hawkins, executive director of the Lifesaving Society's Quebec branch, says that he sees a shortage of lifeguards when the overall workforce is lacking — giving young people a shot at higher-paying jobs. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

Quebec averages about 80 drowning cases annually, Hawkins said.

Backyard pools must have controlled access and pools should always be supervised by adults, he said. Young children can drown during pool parties if not properly monitored, he said.

"This is the same reality when we are staying in a cottage near the lake," he said. "There needs to be an adult supervisor to verify all the time."

More than 40 per cent of Quebec deaths occur in rivers. Quebec's rivers are high this year and the currents are strong, Hawkins said. It is important that people avoid swimming in rivers without lifeguard supervision, he said.

(Mathieu Wagner/Radio-Canada)

The majority of drowning deaths happen in open water, meaning it is important for people to wear life jackets whenever they are out in boats.

"We know the rivers in Quebec are very attractive," he said. "A lot of people, they want to see the rivers and falls, but, again, we have to be aware of the reality with the rivers."

With files from CBC's Kate McKenna

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