There is nothing like a nice swim in BC’s beautiful clear lakes, rivers and seashores to cool off from the summer heat. But there can be a danger lurking in even the most pristine waters.

According to The Province, just this past week, the deep, frigid waters of Harrison Lake claimed a young life for the third time this summer.

On August 7 a young woman died in what B.C. Coroners Service spokeswoman Barb McLintock described as a “swimming incident.”

On June 8, Daniel Dale Reid, 23, and Gary Duong, 25, died after an afternoon of rafting.

How Cold Water Kills Quickly

People tend to think that if they fall into cold water, they have time before hypothermia starts. But sudden and unexpected immersion in cold water below 15°C can result in death in as little as three minutes.

The killing factor is often the first shock of cold water on the body. In fact, cold shock and swimming failure cause more drowning fatalities in B.C. than hypothermia.

A person’s physical fitness or ability to swim will not save him or her from drowning in cold water. People have died in as little as 1 m (3 ft.) of cold water from which they could have stood up and walked out if not for the effects of the cold.

Here is a list of some summer water safety tips offered by The Canadian Red Cross that will help prevent water-related injuries and deaths:

  • When boating, ensure everyone on board has a properly fitted lifejacket on and fastened.
  • Do not drink alcohol before or during swimming or boating activities.
  • Be careful swimming in currents and know what to do if you get into trouble.
  • Get trained through swimming and water safety lessons.
  • Know how to respond to an emergency by taking first-aid lessons.
  • Ensure children are supervised when near water
  • Educate yourself on ways to fight hypothermia, in case you find yourself in very cold water

Just these few extra precautions can ensure that you and your family have a safe and happy British Columbia summer!

Last week, the family and friends of the drowning victims released a video on YouTube about the particular risks of rafting in the 60-kilometre-long glacier-fed lake.

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Michael Slater, K.C.
Michael Slater K.C. is the founding partner of Slater Vecchio. The majority of his practice is confined to traumatic brain injury (TBI) and spinal cord injury cases.