In Western Bay this weekend, there were plenty of kids and adults swimming the popular swimming hole know as the Overfalls, a deep pool below a waterfall. The water was warm, the atmosphere light, the whole place the kind of summer scene you conjure up fondly in the depths of winter. There were also teenagers swimming in the ocean at the narrow grey-sand beach in the community — although the swimmers there, understandably, spent considerably less time in the water.
Both swimming spots have their share of risks: there were young men “cannonballing” into the river from the cliffs on the river, while on the beach, there were the twin dangers of cold water and unexpected currents. But the risks have a way of dropping from sight as the mercury rises.
Suffice to say, with the weather we have had this summer, it was a weekend scene repeated pretty much everywhere on the island. Higher temperatures and sunny days mean warmer water, and a greater desire to submerge oneself in the refreshing cool.
But more people in — and on — the water means more danger, too.
And this past week was a deadly one.
Since last Tuesday, there have been four water-related deaths — and a serious close call — in this province alone.
Last Tuesday, 58-year-old Aubrey Goulding was found floating in Crescent Lake after going for a late afternoon swim. He could not be revived.
On Saturday, there were twin fatalities in the water. In the first, a 50-year-old La Scie resident was thrown from his Sea-Doo near Tilt Cove — he was not wearing a lifejacket at the time, and is believed to have drowned. In the other Saturday incident, two men fishing from a boat near Cavendish went into the water after their boat overturned: both were wearing lifejackets, but a 79-year-old man lost his grip on the overturned boat and died.
In another incident near Sheshatshiu last Monday, a teenaged boy, Peter Nuna Jr., rescued a friend who got into trouble as the two were swimming near North West River. Also Monday, the body of a man was found in the waters of Petty Harbour.
On top of these incidents, there are undoubtedly numerous other close calls that don’t make the news.
If anything, it’s a message that both the ocean and bodies of fresh water share a host of dangers.
By all means, make the most of the outdoors in this amazing summer — but keep safety in mind, too. If you’re in a boat, make sure you all have lifejackets — and that you wear them, too. If you’re swimming, have the proper supervision, be aware of the specific risks in the area, and be mindful of your swimming abilities and weaknesses. Don’t swim alone. Don’t dive without knowing the depth and safety of the area where you’re swimming.
This is a wonderful summer to enjoy — but there is also tragedy lurking in the water if we take our own safety for granted.
There have already been too many deaths on the water this year. There is plenty to enjoy in the water — but you have to take care.