Detroit River drowning 'ignited' Windsor Mayor to accelerate moving Sandpoint Beach

Sandpoint Beach, Windsor, Ont. (Michelle Maluske, CTV Windsor)

A 24 year old man drowned on May 22nd after going into the water off the east-end beach.

His body was recovered a week later.

“It ignited something inside of me that we have to do something,” says Mayor Drew Dilkens at a news conference at the beach Tuesday.

After offering his condolences to the mans’ family, Dilkens shared a personal story from when he was a Windsor auxiliary police officer, assigned to the Ganatchio Trail.

On August 5th, 1996, the Mayor says he was sent to Sandpoint Beach for a possible drowning.

Dilkens says he was first on scene and did enter the water to try to save the young girl, before the marine unit and fire department arrived.

“I remember very vividly the chaos of the situation,” Dilkens says “That was the day that 14 yr old Christina Jackson drowned in the same area that the gentlemen drowned.“

“This remains a safe place to for families to swim,” says the Mayor.

The City acquired this 2.6 acre property in 1976 and opened it as a beach in 1980.

A report in 2012 by the Lifesaving Society deemed the beach was safe but the Mayor says it did offer 17 recommendations for improving safety.

Among them was the installation of fencing, deterring swimmers from the western side of the beach, improved life guard stands and better signage across the 488 meters of beachfront.

“Its clear to me that the City of Windsor can do even more to protect residents coming to Sandpoint Beach in the summer.” Says Jeewen Gill.

The Ward 7 Councillor says the City’s budget includes $1.1 million dollars within the 10-year capital spending plan.

Included is $227,500 for an Environmental Assessment, to explore the idea of moving the beach further east “..to maximize the distance between swimmers and more dangerous waters.” Says Gill.

But that money was ear-marked to be spent in 2024.

Gill is expected to table a motion at Monday’s Council meeting to get the funding unlocked this year, to being an Environmental Assessment immediately.

The Mayor says he supports this idea and he expects Councillors will as well.

In an ironic twist of events, a lone fisherman had waded out into the water, on the western side of the beach, past City warning signs about the Detroit River current.

“We did not stage that. That is just a natural thing that happens here. So despite all of the city’s best intentions and all of the efforts that we put forward, its impossible to police this beach 24 hours a day and make sure everyone follows all the safety measures.”