BC Coroners Service
VICTORIA – BC Coroners Service is again urging residents and visitors to take care while enjoying recreational water activities, especially boating and swimming.
A new review just completed by the Coroners Service shows that boating is significantly the highest-risk activity for drowning among recreational water users. A total of 37.5 per cent of persons who drowned in recreational cases in the five-and-a-half years from Jan. 1, 2008 to July 29, 2013, were engaged in some type of boating activity at the time. This included powerboats, rowboats, sailboats, canoes, kayaks, and pontoon boats, and also those who were fishing from a boat when things went wrong.
The single most effective step to take while boating in any small craft is to wear a properly-fitted personal floatation device (PFD) at all times when on the water. A study from the University of Washington suggests that as many as one in two recreational-boating deaths would be prevented by this one step alone. Another study, from the New York state health department, found that more than 70 per cent of recreational boating deaths occurred when the person became separated from their water craft, either through falling overboard, the boat capsizing, or even deliberately choosing to go for a swim. In all those cases, the fact that a PFD was aboard the boat was of no assistance to the person.
The Coroners Service review shows that the second-most risky activity in recreational water use is swimming, with 28 per cent of the deaths occurring amongst swimmers.
The total number of accidental drownings from Jan. 1 to July 29 this year in B.C. is 45, exactly the average of the past five years and a slight decrease from 2012 figures. However, August is historically the month with the highest number of drowning cases, prompting a need for ongoing vigilance.
Water safety tips:
* Always wear a properly fitting Personal Floatation Device. Children, non-swimmers and weak swimmers should also wear a PFD when around water.
* Alcohol and water-related activities do not mix, any more than alcohol and driving do. B.C. statistics show that between one-third and one-half of those who drown are impaired by alcohol or drugs.
* Always supervise children anywhere near water. Pre-school-aged children can drown in only a few centimetres of water, and the drowning is often silent. Proper supervision for children of this age involves always having them within arm’s length of a responsible adult.
* Be aware of the water conditions where you are planning your activities. Check the weather forecast before heading out, and also do a visual inspection of the area.
* Never dive into unknown waters. Unexpectedly shallow water or hidden obstacles underwater can easily prove fatal. Diving from cliffs or from other great heights is an exceptionally high-risk activity.