Lifesaving Society CEO ‘heartbroken’ after 4 children fatally drown in Sask. within 6 weeks

Between May to August last year, 4 adult males had drowned

The most recent fatal drowning in Saskatchewan was a two-year-old in a backyard swimming pool in Moose Jaw. (Herald file photo)

The Lifesaving Society of Saskatchewan is urging caution around water following four fatal drownings of children within six weeks.

CEO of the Lifesaving Society’s Saskatchewan branch, Shelby Rushton, said the province has seen more drownings this year than normal.

Although she doesn’t have official statistics from the Coroner’s office yet, she said four adult males died by drowning between May and August last year. Within the same time this year, Saskatchewan has seen four fatal drownings in children six years old and under plus two adult males.

“It really breaks my heart and I’m frustrated at the same time because this is what I’ve kind of dedicated my life to,” said Rushton.

“It’s really upsetting. It’s really sad.”

The drownings

A six-year-old boy disappeared in Makwa Lake, which is about 317 km west of Prince Albert, back on June 23. At about 3 p.m. on Wednesday, the Hutterian Emergency Aquatic Response Team recovered the boy.

His body was found over a kilometre away from where he was last seen.

On July 3, a separate six-year-old boy drowned in Sucker River in northern Saskatchewan. He had been swimming in the river when strong currents, where the river enters the mouth of Lac La Ronge, swept him away.

The underwater ROV of the Grandmother’s Bay Recovery Team recovered the boy’s body by 7:20 p.m. that evening.

RCMP said a third six-year-old boy drowned in Tobin Lake on the afternoon of July 25 while swimming with his family.

According to RCMP spokesperson Rob King, weather conditions were windy and the water was rough. The boy was found unresponsive and resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful.

Tobin Lake is located about 175 km east of Prince Albert near Nipawin.

Most recently, a two-year-old died after drowning in a backyard pool in Moose Jaw on Saturday.

Parkland Ambulance recently held a water safety media event, speaking about five-year-old Traylynn McCallum who was saved after drowning in a hotel pool in Prince Albert. Thanks to two bystanders, she was awake by the time paramedics arrived at around 8:30 p.m. on July 14.

‘They can’t cry out for help’

According to the Lifesaving Society of Saskatchewan’s website, drowning is the number one cause of unintentional injury deaths in Canadian children one to four years old. It’s also the second leading cause of preventable death among children under 10.

“Toddlers, really six years and under, they move really fast. They don’t really understand the dangers of water and if you get any source of waves or they lose their footing, they can topple over and immediately they’re under the water,” explained Rushton.

“They can’t cry out for help and so that’s why we don’t hear it happening. We don’t hear a drowning—You need to see it happen.”

Rushton said pools, including backyard pools, are just as much of a threat as open water. People may think they’re a bit safer, she said, because pools are in an enclosed area and more people are around.

However, it takes mere seconds for a child to get caught under water regardless of the environment.

“Be vigilant when watching your kids. Take away all of the distractions. Take away your phone; take away your book; don’t have that conversation with your friend.”

Rushton said parents or caregivers should use the buddy system to properly supervise children around water. Take turns being ‘the lifeguard’ in 15 to 20 minute intervals so that you can still use the washroom or check your phone knowing your child is being looked after.

Here’s more water safety tips to prevent drowning or water-related injuries in children:

  • If you’re not within arms’ reach of the child, you’ve gone too far.
  • Restrict and control access to the water. Install four-sided locking fencing around your backyard pools in addition to the fenced in yard.
  • Designate a backyard pool lifeguard.
  • Go to lifeguard supervised beaches and pools.
  • Wear a lifejacket.
  • Take parent and tot aquatic programs.
  • Be extra vigilant when using inflatable toys such as swans and mattresses. Children can topple off easy and drown. They may also get taken out too far by the wind and waves.