Slocan Lake tragedy highlights importance of lifejackets

The head of the Lifesaving Society’s BC and Yukon branch says the use of lifejackets continues to be a key concern for his organization.

Lily Harmer-Taylor

In light of Saturday’s mishap on Slocan Lake that left one young woman dead and three others missing, the head of the Lifesaving Society’s BC and Yukon branch says the use of lifejackets continues to be a key concern for his organization.

“It’s a very tragic situation,” Dale Miller said. “Our sole purpose is the prevention of drowning and water-related injuries. We’re very disappointed and distraught because unfortunately we do see these types of incidents every year.”

Lily Harmer-Taylor, 19, died in hospital overnight Saturday after the canoe she was in overturned on the lake. The rest of the group — Hayden Kyle, 21, Jule Wiltshire-Padfield, 15, and Skye Donnet, 18 — remain missing.

An eight-member RCMP dive team was expected to begin looking for them about 9 a.m. today after boat searches turned up nothing. A helicopter is also helping today. Police said none were wearing lifejackets and couldn’t confirm if there were any in the canoe at the time.

Miller noted a similar situation last year on Nicola Lake near Merritt where two 18 year old boys drowned after their canoe capsized. He said the society’s general message to boaters is to make sure they’re completely prepared to enter the water. “Often people think it’s not going to happen to me, but it just takes one bad move and all of a sudden a nice day on the water turns tragic,” he said.

Miller said typically in boat-related drownings, 70 to 80 per cent of victims are not wearing lifejackets. In one unusual case last year, two fishers on Kalamalka Lake were wearing lifejackets, but drowned because they were ill-fitting.

He added that taking precautions is particularly critical in cold water, such as glacier-fed Slocan Lake and suggested basic training is important so you know what to do when something happens to someone else.

“We too often see people drown in the company of others who didn’t know what to do in the situation. It could be basic CPR training. Even better would be water-related life-saving training.”

Miller said swimming lessons for kids can also make a “huge difference” when someone unexpectedly falls into the water.

He noted that ironically, Saturday marks the launch of National Safe Boating Awareness Week, which emphasizes the use of lifejackets. The Canadian Safe Boating Council has a series of instructional videos at smartboater.ca.

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