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B.C. drowning total for this summer: 43 and counting

A drowning in the Okanagan this weekend, along with the one at Thetis Lake, pushed British Columbia’s total number of drownings this summer to 43 — more than double the 20 deaths reported over the whole season last year, the RCMP reported Sunday.
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Water levels on Thetis Lake will be lowered as part of a plan to restore summer coho and cutthroat salmon habitat.

A drowning in the Okanagan this weekend, along with the one at Thetis Lake, pushed British Columbia’s total number of drownings this summer to 43 — more than double the 20 deaths reported over the whole season last year, the RCMP reported Sunday.

On Saturday afternoon, a 19-year-old Keremeos man died while rafting near a bridge on the fast-moving Similkameen River, RCMP said. Witnesses reported that the man fell off the raft and was swept under by strong currents.

The Keremeos Fire Department and local search and rescue crew recovered the man’s body. The Mounties are still investigating his death, as is the B.C. Coroners Service.

“We urge all to take normal safety precautions when enjoying B.C. waterways and to never underestimate the possible risks involved with water recreation,” RCMP spokesman Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said in a statement.

Neither of the victim’s names had been released as of Sunday evening.

Meanwhile, a 24-year-old Metro Vancouver man was fighting for his life in hospital Sunday night after he was pulled from Sasamat Lake Sunday afternoon.

Port Moody Police received a swimmer in distress call from White Pine Beach just after 1:30 p.m., Sgt. Travis Carroll said.

The man, who police say was at the lake with a couple of friends, was pulled from the water and taken to the shore, where emergency responders performed CPR. Police said they are not sure how long the man has been in the water, but witnesses said the man was in the water for at least five to 10 minutes.

A woman apparently saw the man struggling in the water, and alerted others on the beach. Some people dove into the water, but were unable to reach him in time.

“They couldn’t get to him in time,” said one woman. “When they got to where he was, they couldn’t find him. They found him five to 10 minutes later.”

There are no lifeguards on duty at Sasamat Lake.

A witness who gave her name only as Jaclyn estimated that the man was 30 to 40 feet from shore, not far from where others were swimming or in floaties.

“The people on the beach did everything they could,” she said. “People came from shore with snorkelling masks and goggles, but they said it was so dark they couldn’t see him.”

Someone eventually spotted the man, and rescuers were able to pull him to shore with the help of the Canadian Coast Guard.

The beach was cleared as a helicopter landed on the shore. He was airlifted to hospital, where he was listed in critical condition Sunday evening.

Sasamat Lake is located within Belcarra Regional Park.