Awareness for water safety rises after 4 Saskatchewan children drown
Published Sunday, August 9, 2020 7:05PM CST Last Updated Monday, August 10, 2020 11:05AM CST
REGINA -- Many Saskatchewan lakes have been stricken with tragedy this summer.
Between the end of May and the August long weekend, there were six drowning deaths in Saskatchewan – four of those were children six years old or younger, according to Lifesaving Society Saskatchewan.
The most recent discovery was Thursday, when the body of a six-year-old boy was pulled from Makwa Lake in northwest Saskatchewan. He was last seen on June 23.
“That's just shocking to me, those numbers,” said Shelby Rushton, the CEO of Lifesaving Society Saskatchewan.
“This time last year, in those same months, we only had four drownings and they were all adult males,” she said.
The Lifesaving Society trains lifeguards across the country, though most of Saskatchewan’s beaches don’t have lifeguards.
Rushton said she is reminding parents to keep a closer eye on their children while they are in the water
“The best place to swim is where there are lifeguards,” she said. “But lifeguards can't always be responsible for everybody at every second, so parents still have to watch at the same time.”
Volunteers have also formed groups in an effort to keep lakes safe.
In southern Manitoba, the Hutterian Emergency Aquatic Response Team (HEART) was formed after a boy drowned on the Oak Bluff Hutterite Colony.
Now, their mission is to recover victims and bring closure for families.
“You really feel for those [when] we aren’t able to find [a victim],” said Paul Maendel, the HEART dive team leader.
“There is no better feeling in the world than being able to recover a victim. It’s only people that have experienced it who know the gratitude and the satisfaction that particular moment brings.”
Paul and Manuel Maendel with the Hutterien Emergency Aquatic Response Team. (Facebook/Hutterien Emergency Aquatic Response Team)
The team runs as a charitable organization. Normal to the Hutterite way of life, they feel they should use their skills to help people.
“You’re always looking for other people to get something done until you realize no one is going to do it. So why not us?” said Maendel.
Maendel and his brother, Manuel, became certified divers to serve communities.
RCMP or other search and rescue teams generally call them in to assist in cases where it’s difficult to find a victim.
So far this year, HEART has been a part of four search and rescue missions across Canada, including a mission in March where three Hutterite girls drowned in a river in Alberta.
They were called last week for the case at Makwa Lake in northwestern Saskatchewan.
They have successfully recovered two victims since March, Paul said