Cottagers speaker series all about summer safety
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | May 30, 2019|
A canoer is alive today thanks to fast thinking members of the Maple, Beech and Cameron Lake Association (MBC).
Rebekah Chevalier was doing yard work on Victoria Day when she heard someone screaming for help. There was a young man clinging to an overturned canoe in the middle of Beech Lake.
“It was super scary,” Chevalier said this past Saturday at MBCs first Summer Safety Speaker Series at the Stanhope Firefighters Community Centre. She also realized, “it’s up to me to get help for this guy.”
Her first thought was, “he has to get out of the water.”
She said that, thankfully, MBC put a list of member phone numbers together last year. She immediately thought to call Phil Carroll to see if he had launched his boat. He had. Meanwhile, she called 911.
Carroll said it was a windy morning on the lake and when he got to the canoer the man was not wearing a life jacket and had an improper paddle. He tossed a rope. Despite having cramps, the man grabbed it and was able to get his hand on the boat’s gunwale. Carroll grabbed him by a trouser leg and was able to tumble him into the boat “like a tuna.”
He got the man to a dock, called 911 again, put him into a shower to warm him up, and ensured he had dry clothes. Then EMS showed up.
“It’s an eye opener,” Carroll told the audience at the Saturday morning speakers’ series. “So, this is a big reality check for me,” he added.
Chevalier believes if Carroll hadn’t had his boat on the water, and gone to get the man, “he wouldn’t have made it.”
Marta Scythes, who is an expert on water safety, Algonquin Highlands fire Chief Mike Cavanagh and paramedic Jo-Ann Hendry all spoke at the session.
Scythes became interested in water safety after reading about two canoers dying on Eagle Lake in 2016.
Scythes had people share drowning stories, after which she said, “so, that’s why we’re here, to talk about these things. These things happen quickly and quietly.”
She quoted the Ontario Drowning Report, which says the vast majority of drownings are men in natural bodies of water. Some of the risk factors include alcohol, swimming and boating alone and not wearing personal flotation devices (PFDs).
She said the main message is drownings are preventable.
She added there is also a misconception that everybody knows about water safety.
For example, she said we all know people who get into boats, kayaks and canoes but never wear their PFD’s because they claim to know the water and can swim.
“People aren’t aware.”
She distributes literature, including simple canoe and kayak rescue booklets.
She would like the province to legislate PFDs for anyone under 16. She’d also like manufacturers to put head rests on all PFDs, not just for children. And, she hands out whistles that work when wet. People in distress should blow three short blows.
Her other tip was just because you have pulled someone out of the water, and they have coughed up water, does not mean they are safe. There is something called dry drowning that can kill people. She urged people to get anyone who has survived a near drowning checked by a medical professional.
Cavanagh and Hendry said the average response time for EMS is 15 minutes for calls such as the one on Victoria Day. They said it is imperative to call 911 immediately and know the 911 location. The two discussed other summer-related safe practices. See the MBC website for more.
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.