The Lifesaving Society says drowning deaths are on the rise in the Maritimes.
Grégoire Cormier, New Brunswick’s project manager for the Lifesaving Society, said there were 33 drowning deaths in 2018, up from 20 in 2017.
It falls above the national average of 1.3 per cent at 1.8 per cent.
Cormier said people often put having fun on the water ahead of being safe and that costs lives.
“What people don’t realize is when you combine those two things, so boating and alcohol, then there is a higher risk of incidents, and it’s harder to put your life jacket on once you’ve already capsized,” he said in an interview Friday.
The statistical breakdown
About 87 per cent of drowning deaths were male. Another 13 per cent were female. In the Maritimes, 69 per cent of the drownings occurred from May to September.
Many of them occurred in the ocean, at 43 per cent, twenty-four per cent in rivers, and 25 per cent in a lake or pond.
Of all the deaths in 2018, 100 per cent of young adults aged 15-34 were not wearing a life jacket. Forty-eight per cent of them were drinking alcohol, and another 33 per cent of them were after dark.
Middle-aged adults, aged 15-64, saw a rate of 87 per cent of people not wearing a life jacket, while 32 per cent of them were consuming alcohol, and 47 per cent were swimming alone.
Older adults aged above 65 saw a rate of 92 per cent not wearing a life jacket, another 29 per cent drinking alcohol, and 46 per cent swimming alone.
“If an adult goes boating with their child, they usually put the life jacket on the child but not on themselves. So what is this child worth all alone in this boat with his life jacket where the adult has fallen overboard,” Cormier said.
Looking ahead for the summer
Cormier said he is worried about what could happen this summer, especially as COVID-19 restrictions loosen.
He said many pools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic and were not providing swimming lessons. People were also less comfortable with going swimming in a public pool due to the virus.
He worries that lack of education and time in a controlled environment will create unpreparedness in the water this summer.
“Drowning can happen very quickly and very quietly also,” he said.
National Drowning Prevention Week is from July 18 to 24.
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