Friends gathered Thursday, mourning the premature death of a young man who lost his life in a Strathcona County lake on Canada Day.

“Today is a horrible day,” Kelley Brown said, surrounded by fellow grieving friends of 21-year-old Casey Crawford. “Everyone is in complete shock. I mean — it’s Casey. We could never have expected it.”

Crawford and a friend boarded a canoe around 11 a.m., on the morning after a pre-Canada Day gathering at an Antler Lake home.

The boat never made it back to shore.

A lone 21-year-old man swam to safety around 3:30 p.m., and was treated by waiting emergency crews, who had been searching for the pair for two hours.

Crawford’s body was found shortly after 5 p.m. in less than two metres of water in the middle of the small, shallow lake.

Strathcona County RCMP Cpl. Darren Anderson said the water was calm, and police believe alcohol was a factor in the accident.

“That’s the only thing we’re certain about at this time and don’t know why the canoe may have capsized,” he said. “Our biggest message is that alcohol and boating do not mix. It’s equally as dangerous as drinking and driving.”

Neither man was wearing a life-jacket, Anderson said.

“This is a tragic example of what can happen — the results are horrific.”

Brown describes Crawford as a caring, protective man, who made fast friends with everyone he met.

“People need to know he wasn’t some screwed up punk. This was a terrible accident,” she said.