In the last seven months alone, there have been 15 drownings across the province, with two incidents occurring in the Central Okanagan.
The most recent drowning was that of a 65-year-old man, who was swimming in Okanagan Lake on Thursday, July 9. West Kelowna emergency crews were called to the 2000 block of Boucherie Road at around 1:45 p.m.
Witnesses at the scene said the man tied up his boat at a float in the water. He was swimming back to shore when he disappeared and failed to resurface.
Lifesaving Society B.C. and Yukon executive director Dale Miller said water-related deaths can be prevented if there are lifeguards present, but just how much they can do is hard to say.
“It’s impossible to say what number of drownings would be prevented, especially since a number of drownings happen outside of lifeguard-supervised areas and lifeguard-supervised hours,” he said.
Last month at Mill Creek Regional Park, where no lifeguard is on duty, a Lower Mainland father drowned near the waterfall while trying to save his daughter, who survived.
“Unfortunately, Peachland is the only lifeguard-supervised waterfront on the expansive Okanagan Lake. We would love to see lifeguards on all waterfronts, but we know that’s not necessarily realistic but it would certainly be helpful,” said Miller.
The District of Peachland has had lifeguards at Swim Bay since the 1950s, and staff said the district invests just over $70,000 to provide nine weeks of lifeguard service.
The City of West Kelowna is encouraging residents to be more careful when they get in the water.
“We extend our heartfelt sympathies to friends and family of the victim (who drown in Okanagan Lake) during this most difficult time,” staff said.
“While the city does not know the circumstances surrounding this incident, we would encourage our community and visitors to use continuous personal safety measures when out enjoying Okanagan Lake.”
The city, as well as Lifesaving Society, have the same advice for swimmers, boaters, kayakers, and fishers: be careful when you get in the water.
“The city recommends that the public not be on the lake outside of daylight hours and always swim with a buddy or in a group,” the city said.
Miller said individuals should always wear lifejackets, especially if venturing out in deeper waters.
“Know the water you’re going into, the depth of it, if there are rocks or logs underneath the surface, and know your own limits and don’t stretch them.”