Not any more

Ontario coroner to review all drownings – thestar.com

In Canada on July 29, 2010 at 23:44
Teresa, 10, helps her little sister, Ann, 8, put on her life jacket during the Lifesaving Society's free Swim to Survive summer program at Toronto's Monarch Park school.

Teresa, 10, helps her little sister, Ann, 8, put on her life jacket during the Lifesaving Society’s free Swim to Survive summer program at Toronto’s Monarch Park school.

LIFESAVING SOCIETY

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Debra Black Staff Reporter

Ontario’s acting chief coroner will investigate a troubling spate of dozens of drowning deaths across the province over the past few months.

Dr. Bert Lauwers announced Thursday he will look into all water deaths from May to the end of August.

“There has been a slight surge over the last couple of months,” Lauwers said.

“Our office thinks it might in part be related to the fact that it’s been a very hot summer and a lot of people are actually in the water and being exposed to potential drowning situations,” he said.

“So we’re responding to that apparent surge.”

There have been 75 drownings in the province this year, compared to 64 at the same time last year, said Barbara Byers of the Lifesaving Society.

“I cannot recall a time in my 18 years that a coroner has come out and said, ‘We’re going to look into the drownings in the summer,’ ” she said.

Immigrants are at higher risk for drowning while boating and swimming than people born in Canada, according to research from the Lifesaving Society.

Almost 20 per cent of immigrants are non-swimmers, compared to 4 per cent of people born in Canada, the study found.

Lauwers’ review will look at the demographics of the victims. Such things as age, use of alcohol and drugs, the location of the drowning, whether or not there was supervision, the educational level of the victims and their swimming knowledge will also be studied, he said.

According to the coroner’s office the number of drownings in Ontario has remained constant from 2002 to 2007 — between 170 and 180 a year.

“So the question becomes are we going to see more this year?” Lauwers said, adding that remains to be seen. “But it will take the study to understand that.”

The review, which will be made public later this year, will make any necessary recommendations to prevent similar tragedies, Lauwers said.

Recommendations could include: supervision for non-swimmers by a competent individual; swimming lessons for young children; no alcohol when boating or swimming; limiting access to backyard pools; and the use of life jackets and personal flotation devices.

“Year in and year out the issues seem to be the same,” Lauwers said.

He reminds Ontarians to follow basic safety tips when near the water:

 • Wear a life jacket even if you are a strong swimmer.

 •  Closely supervise children at all times when they’re in the water.

 •  Don’t drink and drive when boating.

 • Learn to swim. Regardless of age swimming is a basic life skill that should be learned by everyone, Lauwers said.

And he reminds parents that children “die quickly and quietly (in water).”

“You can turn your back on a child in a swimming environment to talk to a neighbour and before you know it the child has submerged and drowned.”

This summer’s drownings occurred in pools, lakes and rivers. The pool deaths include two 14-year-old friends who drowned in a condominium pool, and a 12-year-old from New York who died in a hotel pool in Toronto.

Other drownings include a father and son who drowned in Lake Huron; a 13-year-old who drowned when he fell out of a boat on the Trent River; a 31-year-old who drowned in the Nottawasaga River at Wasaga Beach as he was running to catch a ball and slipped under water; a 39-year-old who drowned in Lake Dalrymple near Orillia; and an 84-year-old man who drowned near Gravenhurst after he had gone for a swim.

Lauwers recommends that anyone who wishes to learn more about staying safe in and around water contact the Lifesaving Society, the Red Cross or other similar organizations for information and help.

With files from Robert Benzie

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