After 3 suspected drownings, Sask. Lifesaving Society warns untrained people against water rescues

·2 min read
RCMP dive teams were searching the waters of Lake Diefenbaker after a 36-year-old man did not resurface after trying to help children who were distress from the water. (CBC - image credit)
RCMP dive teams were searching the waters of Lake Diefenbaker after a 36-year-old man did not resurface after trying to help children who were distress from the water. (CBC - image credit)

The Lifesaving Society says most people should think twice before rescuing anyone from Saskatchewan lakes.

On Tuesday, the society sent out an appeal to the public after two separate attempts at water rescues likely claimed three lives this month.

"Your instant response is just to jump in and go and help them, because that's the first thing that pops into your mind," said public education coordinator Kelsey Gallagher.

"But it is a pretty common trend in drowning fatalities across Saskatchewan and Canada."

On July 1, a 36-year-old man jumped out of a boat on Lake Diefenbaker to rescue some swimming children who were in distress. The man did not resurface after diving in.

Then, on July 3, two people died in Turtle Lake near the Thunderchild First Nation when a 51-year-old woman began to struggle while swimming.

A 60-year-old man tried to save her and began to struggle as well. Both people were taken to shore by other swimmers and declared dead by EMS.

The Lifesaving Society Saskatchewan branch has several strategies for people to use instead of jumping into the water.

If the rescuer is in a boat, the best strategy is to throw a spare life jacket or other floating object to a person.

As well, people can reach a long object like a paddle or a pool noodle for the person to hang on to.

A third strategy involves talking to people in an attempt to calm them down and give them the strength to continue.

"Sometimes the person who's in distress just needs a little bit of reassurance that somebody is there," said Gallagher.

"They see that they need help and that someone is there to help them."

The society warns that anyone in a boat should never take their lifejacket off. If a boat capsizes, or someone accidentally falls out, there may not be enough time to find it.

"Life jackets do need to be worn to work," she said.

"They are pretty similar to a seatbelt in a car. They're not there so that you can put it on in case of something happening."

According to the Lifesaving Society's latest numbers, 21 people in Saskathchewan died from drowning in 2017, while 22 people died in 2016.

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