The suspected drowning death of a 64-year-old North Saanich resident Monday could be the first drowning death in British Columbia in 2021.
Dale Miller, executive director of the Lifesaving Society of BC and the Yukon, said preliminary numbers show 42 drownings in British Columbia in 2020, and none yet this year, other than the Saanich incident.
Drowning statistics kept by the society include only preventable (unintentional) deaths, and do not account for deaths due to natural causes, suicide, or homicide.
Police say the man who died at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard Monday night likely drowned. Police received a call at around 10:30 p.m. about the man being unable to pull himself out after he had fallen into the water. Paramedics made attempts to revive the man but he died at the marina.
Neither police nor the investigating coroner will release the identity of the 64-year-old man. The marina has yet to provide comment, but the incident is not on the radar of WorkSafeBC. “I can confirm that WorkSafeBC was not involved with this incident,” said Ivy Yuen, a spokesperson.
Regional figures from the Lifesaving Society of BC and the Yukon show four individuals drowned in and around Vancouver Island in 2020. The last within the 2020 calendar year was the death of 80-year-old Hesquiaht elder Harry Lucas, whose remains were found near Tofino on Jan. 2. He had reportedly left Ahousaht by boat alone around 3 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 31 and was on his way to Hot Springs Cove.
In another incident, Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and Anthony (A.J.) Jensen of Sooke, all 20 years old, were last seen alive around 11 p.m. Friday, on Jan. 31. Crews recovered their bodies days later following a rapid rise in the level of Sooke River following heavy rainfall.
According to available statistics from the Office of the Chief Coroner, health authorities recorded 666 drowning deaths between 2008 and 2016.
According to that agency, fatal drownings were most common in the summer months, peaking at an average of 13.6 deaths per year, with men accounting for 79.6 per cent. Individuals aged 19 to 29 accounted for the largest share of fatalities at almost 24 per cent of all fatalities, followed by individuals aged 50 to 59 years with 17 per cent.
Alcohol and / or drugs contributed to 40 per cent of drowning deaths between 2008 and 2015. Boating (21.8 per cent), swimming (16.8 per cent) and falls into water (16.5 per cent) were the three activities in which drownings were most likely to occur.
Miller said the trend line for accidental drowning deaths is downward.
“The 42 (deaths) in 2020 is the lowest ever (since the society starting keeping records for the last 30 years) and of course that is still 42 too many.”
Contrary to predictions, COVID-19 did not lead to more people swimming outdoors, thereby increasing the potential for drowning, he said.
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