Hot weather, swimming in unfamiliar locations possible factors in drownings this summer

Ottawa Police officers on a boat on the Ottawa River near Bate Island during a search for the second of two men reported missing Friday night. The body of one man was recovered overnight. Aug. 1, 2020.

Hot temperatures and swimming in unfamiliar waters are considered as possible factors for a deadly summer on waterways in Ottawa.

There have been five drownings on Ottawa waterways since the middle of June, including a two year-old boy that drowned at Petrie Island.  Two fishermen died after being swept away in the Ottawa River near the Canadian Museum of History last weekend.

The Ottawa Drowning Prevention Coalition, Ottawa Police, Ottawa Fire, and Ottawa Paramedic Service are urging all residents to practice water safety when they are on, in or near water.

Speaking on CTV News at Noon, Chris Wagg of the Ottawa Drowning Prevention Coalition said emergency crews have noticed more people are swimming in new areas this summer instead of at public beaches.

"They're finding people swimming in areas that typically we've never seen them going in the waters," Wagg said on Thursday.

"Of course, we're talking outside the supervised beach areas."

On July 3, a 14-year-old boy drowned after jumping off the Prince of Wales Bridge into the Ottawa River. On July 4, a 20-year-old man drowned while swimming at Britannia Beach. The beach remains closed this summer due to work by municipal officials.

Wagg says people should be swimming in supervised areas of the Ottawa River.

"City of Ottawa goes out to the beaches well ahead of the season, checking the bottom looking for any debris that might be there that could pose a danger, roping off the supervised areas," said Wagg.

"So when you're heading out onto the river, into an area that hasn't been searched, knowing what footing is underneath. So, if you're out there, you could easily lose your footing in the river because the currents can be incredibly strong."

The Ottawa Drowning Prevention Coalition says you should be aware of the possible dangers of swimming in unknown waters and always wear a life jacket near open bodies of water.

Wagg says no matter where you are swimming or how much experience you have; always have someone watching people in the water.

"Having somebody watching over you at all times is always a great idea. Parents can easily get distracted with phones or if you have family and friends over. Make sure you got that one person designated to be on guard watching the kids."

If you're boating this summer, the Ottawa Drowning Prevention Coalition recommends wearing a life jacket at all times, have all the safety equipment on board and don't drink and drive while boating.