EDITORIAL: Leisurely floats can turn deadly on Lower Mainland waters

Chilliwack’s lakes and rivers offer a great place to cool off, but their beauty belies their danger

It doesn’t take long for a fun outing on the water to turn tragic.

Unfortunately every year people learn this harsh lesson the hard way.

Some escape with nothing worse than a frightening story – and a better appreciation of the risks.

Others, like the 29 people who have drowned in B.C. so far this year, have not been so lucky.

In Chilliwack we’ve had two deaths in recent weeks – one in the placid but cold waters of Chilliwack Lake, the other on the turbulent Vedder River.

But like every year, there are many more close calls.

One of those was caught on video by Connor Visagie.

Read More: VIDEO: Near drowning captured on Vedder River in Chilliwack

The video offers a graphic illustration of how quickly a leisurely float down the river can become a desperate fight for life.

The Chilliwack/Vedder River is an unpredictable place, as Chilliwack Search and Rescue members tell us every year. New channels are etched, routes that were once clear are cluttered by debris, and the water is cold and the current strong.

Even with proper equipment, navigation requires constant awareness and respect.

That’s something easily forgotten on a hot and sunny afternoon. Spend any time by the river’s edge and you’ll see a small flotilla of people who feel even a life-jacket is unnecessary.

Unfortunately, their foolishness can also put others at risk. This year in B.C. four of the drowning fatalities were people who died going to the aid of others.

Chilliwack’s lakes and rivers offer a cool respite as temperatures climb and the hot weather settles in. But to truly enjoy their beauty we need to understand their risks.

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