Water safety experts urge vigilance amid drownings, boat accidents

As cooped-up Canadians search for places to beat the summer heat, a rash of drownings and tragedies by the water have authorities urging for caution.

A day of summer fun at an Ontario lake turned tragic just yesterday afternoon.

Ontario Provincial Police say 13-year-old Tania Yonan was on a boat in Conestogo Lake when she somehow ended up in the water.

Moments later, she was run over by the vessel. After she was pulled from the water, she was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Our investigators will be looking at whether there was any sort of mechanical issues with the vessel itself, whether or not [the] individual operating the boat was doing so properly,” Const. Kirk MacDonald said.

Three hours east, police were called twice to North Beach Provincial Park.

Two men from the Greater Toronto Area had drowned, just hours apart.

Police say both had been swimming with family and friends when they failed to resurface.

According to the Lifesaving Society, there have been nearly 50 drownings in Ontario so far this year.

But the province is far from alone. In Quebec, there have been 58 drownings so far this year, mainly in rivers and lakes.

That's the same number as in all of 2019.

Deputy Premier Genevieve Guilbeault says the pandemic has forced more people to spend time closer to home, and with public pools running at reduced capacity, the open water has never been more tempting.

“They can go in some places that are very dangerous,” she said. “Where you cannot go […] in the water because it's dangerous, but you don't know it before you actually drown.”

The Lifesaving Society has issued a plea for National Drowning Prevention Week, asking Canadians to take a safety refresher.

One key point is that thrashing around is not a sign of drowning.

"Drowning is silent and it's very fast. When a person is drowning their air way is filling with water so you can't assume you’re going to hear them," says Barbara Byers, Public Education Director for the Lifesaving Society.

Raynald Hawkins, executive director of Lifesaving Society’s Quebec division, says that regardless of experience level as a boater or swimmer, it is crucial to take precautions.

“That's why it's very important to wear your life jacket all the time because […] maybe you don't see what it's like to have a collision or go overboard,” Hawkins told CTV News.

When it comes to water safety, there is no such thing as going overboard, experts say, not when seconds can make the difference between life and death.

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