Water Safety: Lessons from a near-drowning experience

A photo of a canoe on the water

When the warmer weather sets in, after a long winter spent indoors, the urge to get outdoors takes hold of many people. The start of the warm weather usually coincides with Patriots Day (or Victoria Day – for those outside of Quebec) long weekend and can easily stretch into September. This summer, many Quebecers will spend time at their cottages or plan to go for a swim.

In a 2021 Leger survey commissioned by Allstate Canada, nearly 1-in-4 respondents (22%) say they will spend their vacation at a cottage this summer, with almost two thirds of respondents (65%) saying they plan to swim. However, the Quebec branch of the Lifesaving Society reports that 84% of drownings happen in lakes and rivers. These incidents are typically due to a lack of proper water safety precautions or the unpredictability of water conditions at different times of the year.

Allstate Canada, in collaboration with the Quebec division of the Lifesaving Society, is educating Quebecers on the importance of water safety as the temperatures start warming up. .

To understand the importance of water safety we are sharing a story from the Quebec division of the Lifesaving Society of someone named Béatrice. Béatrice has a cautionary tale of what can happen when in a river with strong currents.

It was a beautiful spring morning and my friend and I had decided to take a canoe trip. We are both experienced canoeists and planned to follow a familiar route that we’ve taken before.

In the spring, rivers are typically overflowing and the currents can be quite rough. Anticipating those strong currents, we wore our lifejackets and shared with our friends our plans.

As we had done many times in the past, we ventured out in our canoe. Everything was going well; we enjoyed the sights and sounds of our environment and revelled in our time spent together. However, that soon changed when our canoe hit a rock, hidden by the unusually high water level, and capsized.

The current was a lot stronger than we expected. Before I had a moment to catch my breath and return to our canoe, the current had pulled me toward the bottom of the river and I was swept away.

Though I was wearing my lifejacket, I was still pulled to the bottom of the river for what felt like a long time. When I was finally able to get my head out of the water, after what seemed like an eternity, I saw my friend and it seemed she had the same experience I did.

I could see her moving, but I couldn’t see much else. All I could see was her red lifejacket bobbing up and down with the motion of the water.

A photo of Beatrice and her dog by a body of water

I was a little further upriver than she was so, taking advantage of the current, I headed toward her. As I passed, I managed to grab her lifejacket and pull her to the shore.

It seemed to have all happened in a blink of an eye. We were grateful to be alive and even more grateful that we took the step to wear our lifejackets. Though I was still pulled toward the bottom of the river, the lifejacket allowed me to come back to the surface and help my friend.

Luckily, after a moment to recover on the shore, we were able to find our way to the nearest road. Our canoe, unfortunately, did not have the same luck as it was swept away by the current.

Despite knowing the dangers and taking the necessary precautions, the flowing water in the river was unpredictable and caused us to capsize. Wearing a lifejacket was really the deciding factor that got us through this ordeal.

Beatrice was 28 years old at the time of the event and had considerable experience in the great outdoors.

Even today, eight years later, she believes that it is impossible to predict everything when out on the water and hopes that people will follow these simple tips:

  • Never go on a trip or swim unaccompanied. It will be easier to get help if something goes wrong.
  • Make sure you know the area or waterway before you go in – or be with someone who does.
  • Wear a flotation device at all times. They can save lives when dealing with unpredictable water patterns.

Disclaimer: *This information and the opinions expressed in this blog are written by Capital-Image Inc., conducted on behalf of Allstate Canada. They have been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice.