A week of drownings puts spotlight on water safety

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At least three children have died while two others and an adult remain in critical condition following a spate of drowning incidents in Quebec and Ontario this past week, where temperatures reached summer-like heights.

Last Sunday, an unconscious three-year-old was pulled from the bottom of a pool in Drummondville, Que., a city between Montreal and Quebec City, and remains in critical condition. Then, on Friday evening in Newmarket, Ont., a town just north of Toronto, police discovered an unresponsive 20-year-old babysitter in a pool after the four-year-old she was looking after called 9-1-1. The woman remains in life-threatening condition. And that same night in Chelsea, Que., a municipality near Ottawa, an 11-year-old was found dead in the bottom of a backyard pool after swimming with friends.

The tragedy continued Saturday morning, when an unresponsive eight-year-old was pulled from a backyard pool in Montreal. The child, who was attending a birthday party, remains in critical condition. Later that same evening, a four-year-old was found lifeless by his parents in a Hamilton, Ont. pool.

Also on Saturday evening, police say two children, aged three and five, wandered off from a private residence in Montérégie, Quebec.

The five-year-old was found safe but told a police officer, the three-year-old had fallen into the river. The child was pulled from the water, unresponsive, and has since died.

According to the Lifesaving Society, a charitable organization dedicated to preventing water-related injuries and deaths, nearly 500 drown annually in Canada.

“Drowning is the number one cause of unintentional death (for children aged one to four),” Sean Duffy, the Lifesaving Society’s Ottawa-area chair, told CTV Ottawa on Saturday.

“Always, someone should be watching the water,” Duffy added. “If you have a group of people coming over, for example, designate one person who is responsible for watching people in the pool.”

The Lifesaving Society also provides tips online for backyard pool safety. They include:

  • Making sure that your backyard has a self-closing gate that can be locked.
  • Having secure fencing of a minimum height of 1.5 metres surrounding the pool.
  • Placing a sign near the pool’s entrance that reads: “Do not enter without permission.”
  • Making sure that at least one buoyant throwing aid with a rope attached to it as well as a reaching pole are near the pool.
  • Making sure that children are always supervised when swimming.
  • Ensuring, at the very least, that you know basic first aid, such as CPR, if you own a pool.

With files from CTV Ottawa and CTV Montreal.

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