Drowning incident at Langford Lake triggers calls for safety equipment


A drowning incident at Langford Lake has triggered calls for safety equipment at all Greater Victoria beaches including Thetis and Elk lakes.

Langford Lake looks deceptively calm Friday, but less than a week ago 17-year-old Keron ‘Dequan’ McKay was pulled from the water here unconscious.

He died in hospital four days later.

Now there are calls for increased water safety measures at all popular swimming areas, including from Derek Gent, CEO of YMCA-YWCA Vancouver Island.

“This is not a unique occurrence, unfortunately. It happens every year,” he said. “The more we can do to build awareness, and enhance the safety, the better.”

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Drownings are up in British Columbia.

According to the BC Coroners’ Service, 18 people drowned in 2022 within the Island Health region.

Kimiko Hirakida, director of Programs and Services with the BC Lifesaving Society, said it’s critical to educate the public on what drowning looks like.

“We would like that number to go down, and what we need to tell the public is that drowning doesn’t look like what you think it looks like from movies,” she said. “You aren’t necessarily going to see someone flailing, and calling, and screaming for help.”

But at many lakes in the Capital Region, including Langford Lake, there is no lifesaving equipment and no lifeguards.

It’s something that used to be a staple at Thetis and Elk Lakes prior to 2003.

But they could be poised to make a return, according to Judy Brownoff, vice chair of the CRD Parks, Regional Parks Committee.

“We are getting a report from staff at the parks committee next week, and so we’ll see what staff says. I’ve talked with Island Health, and I’ve also talked with the Lifesaving Society,” she said.

The report goes to the CRD’s Parks and Recreation committee next week.

An online fundraising page for Dequan McKay has raised tens of thousands of dollars as of Friday.

Safety equipment at Banfield Park

The newly expanded dock at Banfield Park has not only tripled in size, but comes outfitted with safety equipment including a safety ring and other measures.

That’s according to Derrick Newman, acting director of Victoria Parks, Recreation and Facilities.

“We’ve added a new lifejacket loaning station which ensures that all ages, abilities, and experience have access to life safety devices for the water. As well as some access improvements,” Newman said.

That includes swim ladders for easier access in and out of the water.

But no lifeguards.

“We did explore that. But currently we feel that the existing safety measures are adequate,” Newman said.

Mary Griffin

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