Water safety experts are warning of elevated risks associated with being near the water’s edge with levels higher than normal for this time of year and flows moving fast.
Reports of a boy floating down the Red River holding onto a log drew rescue crews to the St. Vital Park area Sunday night. They launched a boat from the park and pick up the boy about a kilometre down the river.
It isn’t clear how the boy ended up in the river, but the LifeSaving Society of Manitoba says 70 per cent of water rescues in Canada involve a person who did not plan to go into the water in the first place.
“During flood seasons like this, people drive into flood waters or they’re on a riverbank, and because it’s wet, it’s muddy, they slip and fall into the water or the riverbank gives way,” said Christopher Love, water smart and safety management co-ordinator with the LifeSaving Society of Manitoba.
Love says there have been five water-related deaths this year that he is aware of, and Manitoba averages about 22 per year. There are fears higher levels this year could mean more fatalities.
Love said there were 40 such deaths in 2011 — another year a significant flood took place.
“Really hoping that that is not a trend we are going to see this year,” he said.
The concerns extend beyond the shoreline to boaters. RCMP say flooding leads to greater amounts of debris floating in waterways, which pose a threat to fast-moving boats.
Love said there tends to be a rise in water rescues once school lets out at the end of June.
There are also more people out on the water for recreational purposes now than there has been historically, said Sgt. Bob Chabot.
“We’ve seen an increase in applications to operate watercrafts licenses, we’ve seen an increase in the number of boat sales — that’s happened in the last few years,” said Chabot, RCMP water transport commander. “Once you see more people on the waterways, I think those numbers are going to follow.”
Chabot said RCMP have recently trained 11 Mounties to help water rescues and operate the five dozen RCMP boats in Manitoba.