Robert Barron column: Drownings take more of the strong than the weak

I know from personal experience that those are also the years in which people are the most reckless.

It’s the time of year again when reports and stories of drownings in the area, and across B.C., begin showing up in the newsroom.

Typically, the spike in drownings during the summer months is related to the increase in people taking to the outdoors to relax and have a good time.

According to statistics, between 2009 and 2013 (the most up-to-date statistics I could find for some reason) a total of 2,364 people lost their lives due to drowning in Canada.

But what’s most striking is the age groups of those that drowned.

You would think that the vast majority of those who succumb in the water would be toddlers and seniors who may be too weak and slow to deal with a water emergency, like swimming out too far over their heads or getting caught up in a rip tide.

But it turns out that while kids up to four years old make up approximately 30 per cent of drownings and seniors over 65 account for about 21 per cent, people between 15 and 34 make up a whopping 51.4 per cent of drownings in Canada.

Add in those between 35 and 64 and you have 64 per cent of drownings occurring in the 15-64 age group.

That’s the decades when people are usually at their most physically fit and able to deal with emergency situations better than kids and seniors.

But I know from personal experience that those are also the years in which people are the most reckless.

I almost never came back from a kayaking adventure off the west coast when I was 40.

My colleague and I decided not to pay attention to the signs on the side of the highway on the way to Tofino indicating that wave heights were considered extreme on the beautiful day in May.

We headed out of the calm Tofino bay to the open ocean on our way to camp on Vargas Island, which should have been a mere two to three hour paddle.

The first hour was uneventful, but then the waves quickly picked up and it became so stormy that we both found ourselves tossed out of our kayaks about a mile from shore.

The wind and weather conditions didn’t allow us the opportunity to try and rescue ourselves, and we unsuccessfully fought the elements in fruitless attempts to make it back to the beach, hauling our kayaks behind us.

We became separated in the increasingly stormy conditions and, after about an hour fighting for survival, I was pretty much done.

That’s when a tourist boat full of orange-clad people appeared on the scene and quickly hauled both of us out of the water.

I collapsed on the deck of the boat, started shaking uncontrollably and blacked out as the boat sped back to Tofino where an ambulance was waiting on the shore.

After I was stabilized, the doctors told me that I was just minutes from dying in the waves.

My colleague, who had managed to climb on top of his kayak and out of the cold water before he was rescued, fared much better.

I still reflect on just how stupid we were to head out to sea that day after the road-side sign had warned us it was dangerous.

It’s a fact that many people in their prime think they are more invincible than others.

Keep this in mind and don’t become a statistic this year.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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