Drownings spur politicians to install safety equipment at several beaches

Drownings spur politicians to install safety equipment at several beaches
CHEK

A couple is preparing to take a dip in Elk Lake — she’s going swimming, and he’s accompanying her on a paddle board.

At most public beaches on Vancouver Island, swimmers enter the water at their own risk.

According to a new report from the BC Coroners Service, drownings on the Island are on the rise, and Dr. Murray Fyfe, Island Health medical health officer, says it’s a concern.

“It’s a very concerning number that there were 32 drownings on Vancouver Island last year, which is more than double what we saw two years ago,” he told CHEK News.

“It’s the worst year, ever, on record for Vancouver Island.”

Fifteen people drowned on the Island in 2021. That number more than doubled to 32 by 2023, making the Island the deadliest region in the province for drownings.

Citing budget cutbacks, the Capital Regional District eliminated lifeguards from its beaches in 2003.

Watch the report below:

Now, the CRD park’s committee is recommending that safety measures like loaner lifejackets and life rings be installed at two of the region’s most popular swimming beaches, Elk Lake’s Hamsterly Beach and Thetis Lake, just in time for this summer.

According to the BC Coroners Service, less than one per cent of drownings occur at beaches staffed by lifeguards.

Wednesday’s move to install potentially life-saving equipment is seen as a positive step.

But Len Manuel, aquatic manager with Lifesaving Society of BC & Yukon, hopes this is just the beginning.

“Ultimately, lifeguards anywhere. Because lifeguards do prevent injuries and do prevent drownings,” he told CHEK News.

“So whether it’s here or whether it’s anywhere in the province, we would encourage lifeguards being reinstated.”

The latest tragedy on the water occurred on the weekend of June 15 at Langford Lake.

Seventeen-year-old Keron ‘Dequan’ McKay was pulled from the water unconscious. He died four days later.

Scott Goodmanson, mayor of Langford, said he hopes Wednesday’s CRD Parks Committee’s recommendation is the first step towards more safety on the water.

“I’m really hoping that this can spur a greater discussion, that this is beginning. I don’t like the term regulations, but best practices,” he said.

The recommendation will now go to the CRD for approval.

It’s hoped the equipment could be set up and ready to go in a matter of weeks.

WATCH: Drowning incident at Langford Lake triggers calls for safety equipment

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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