Okanagan summer fun comes with water warning

Two near-misses on the water near Penticton this week came amid a flurry of warnings about exercising caution while indulging in summer fun.

Two near-misses on the water near Penticton this week came amid a flurry of warnings about exercising caution while indulging in summer fun.

Hours before a boat crash-landed Tuesday on a pier near downtown Penticton, a man floating on the Okanagan River channel became snagged on a bridge pillar at Green Avenue and had to be cut loose.

Branton Grinde, 17, had just gotten off the channel with friends around 3 p.m. and was about to start crossing the bridge when he saw a man who looked to be in his 40s thrashing in the water below.

It appeared the man’s tube was tied to others that were wrapped around the other side of the bridge pillar, and the rope with which they were attached was also tangled around his arm.

“He just started yelling for help, so we all ran down to the water and I phoned 911 to get some people over there,” said Grinde. “I was definitely a bit worried. I didn’t know what to do, so I just yelled for somebody to get a knife.”

Another onlooker ran to his truck, grabbed a knife, then swam out to the victim and cut him loose.

“He was getting a face full of water for like five minutes,” Grinde said, adding the man simply floated away with his group afterwards.

Other people haven’t been so lucky.

In the first five days of July, the B.C. Coroners Service responded to four drowning deaths, including a man who died while tubing on a river near Courtenay and another who lost his life after rescuing his two children from Wood Lake.

“A review of drowning deaths over the past five years shows that many victims are unfamiliar with the waters involved and therefore don’t see the risk or underestimate it,” B.C. Coroners Service spokesperson Barbara McLintock said in a statement.

The risks include unexpected currents, steep and sudden drop-offs, or unusually high water levels because of heavy rains or late spring runoff.

“In a fast-flowing river, six inches of water can sweep a person downstream and two feet can carry away most vehicles,” she said, adding 40 per cent of drowning victims are later found to be impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada has issued its own statement urging people to report suspected drunk boaters.

In partnership with the B.C. government and the RCMP, the group is spreading that message through the installation of signs at 42 provincial parks.