Swimmer dead in Ottawa's 2nd drowning in 2 days

Ottawa police are investigating a second drowning in as many days after a swimmer went under the water Saturday night at Britannia Beach and failed to resurface. One day earlier, a teen boy jumped off the Prince of Wales Bridge and is now presumed to have died.

Police investigating after man went missing at Britannia Beach

A sign at Britannia Beach on July 5, 2020, warns people that the beach is unsupervised and swimming is currently not permitted. A 20-year-old man drowned the night before while swimming there. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

Ottawa police are investigating the city's second drowning in two days. 

A 20-year-old man went missing while a group of people were swimming at Britannia Beach Saturday evening.

The group watched the man go underwater, police said, and he never resurfaced. 

According to a press release, officers and dive crews searched the shorelines and water after responding to the call at approximately 8 p.m. They were assisted by Ottawa firefighters.

The man's body was recovered shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday.

Police search for a missing swimmer at Britannia Beach on July 4, 2020. The 20-year-old swimmer failed to resurface, and his body was found early the following morning. (Radio-Canada)

While three of Ottawa's four municipal beaches officially reopened in late June, Britannia Beach remained closed as the city plans to start dredging work Monday that will keep it off-limits until 2021.

Even though the beach isn't technically open, it was still packed with people Sunday — some who had heard about the incident the night before, and some who hadn't.

"As a mother, it really, like, turns your stomach," said Jennifer Madigan, who was there with her children and didn't know about the drowning death.

"I make sure that they have floaties on. I keep a good eye on them. We bring life-jackets," Madigan said. "I recognize that it's on us to make sure that they're safe." 

One day before the Britannia Beach death, a 14-year-old boy also disappeared after jumping into the water off the Prince of Wales Bridge.

Young people had gathered on the out-of-use rail bridge Friday, which is west of the capital's downtown and is off-limits to the public. Some were jumping into the river below, police said. 

At around 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Ottawa police told Radio-Canada they had shifted their focus from rescuing him to searching for his body.

Paramedics observe the search efforts for a 14-year-old boy who jumped off the Prince of Wales Bridge on Friday and never resurfaced. The boy is now presumed to have drowned. (Boris Proulx/Radio-Canada )

Many hazards

Rivers are among the most dangerous places to swim, particularly if they're unsupervised, according to Sean Duffy with the Ottawa Drowning Prevention Coalition.

Nearly three out of every 10 drowning deaths over the past decade have occurred in rivers, Duffy said.

"People may not be familiar with the environment. The bottom of the water may drop out more quickly. There may be hazards under the water [like] undertows and currents," he said.

Duffy said swimmers should first make themselves familiar with any potential dangers before going in the water — especially if they're jumping from a height.

With files from Natalia Goodwin

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