With the summer heat, many look to take advantage of Brant’s waterways, but summertime fun can quickly turn to tragedy if safety is not taken into account.
This week’s drowning on the Grand River underlines the importance of taking extra precautions while out on open water.
The body of 26-year-old Cambridge resident Blair Riddell was found in the river just north of Paris on Sunday afternoon.
Riddell and a friend had been canoeing on Saturday evening when their canoe capsized. Riddell was believed to have made it to shore, but sadly, that wasn’t the case.
Tragedies like this are avoidable and are a reminder that we must always be cautious when using Brant’s waterways.
Brant’s rivers can be a wonderful source of entertainment whether canoeing, kayaking, fishing, tubing or participating in other water sports. But safety is always key.
Drowning accounts for 500 fatalities annually in Canada, according to The Lifesaving Society, a charitable organization working to prevent drowning and water-related injury.
The society reports drowning as the third leading cause of unintentional death among Canadians under 60 years of age, after motor vehicle accidents and poisoning. And it’s the No. 1 cause of unintentional deaths among children aged one to four.
Alcohol is to blame for half of water-related deaths among men aged 18 to 49, according to The Lifesaving Society.
Drinking and boating is just as dangerous as drinking and driving, and both come with similar consequences.
According to the Ministry of Transportation, boaters caught drinking and boating can face immediate three, seven or 30-day driver’s license suspension if caught with a blood alcohol level between 0.05 and 0.08, or a 90-day suspension and $150 penalty for exceeding 0.08.
If convicted under the criminal code, boaters also face a possible lifetime driver’s license ban, mandatory alcohol assessment and vehicle impoundment.
Even more importantly, drinking and boating puts yourself and others in harm’s way and can lead to serious accidents and even death.
Other factors, like not wearing a personal floatation device, being on or near the water alone and getting caught in strong currents, are also major contributors to drowning.
In a recent interview with Brant News reporter J.P. Antonacci at the Paris Community Pool and Splashpad, lifeguard Stephanie DeLaronde warned of the risks involved with open water.
“A lot of people think they are strong swimmers, but once they go into open water a lot of things can happen and there are a lot of dangers you can’t see until it’s too late,” DeLaronde said.
County of Brant OPP are reminding people to be cautious while boating or swimming in lakes and rivers. They recommend boaters wear personal flotation devices and encourage non-swimmers to stay out of deep water.
But there are other things that can be done to make sure our waterways are a safe and enjoyable place for everyone.
The Grand River Conservation Authority recommends checking river conditions before beginning your trip. If river flows are high, especially after a major rainfall, postpone your trip.
Officials also suggest staying clear of dams where there can be undertows and extreme currents, staying seated and avoiding horseplay while in a boat. Leaving the water if a thunderstorm or lightning is approaching is also advised.
In the end, keeping safe while on Brant’s waterways is your responsibility and your personal choice, but remember, those choices can have far-reaching effects that include heartache and trauma for the people that love you most.