TORONTO – Some Ontario Provincial Police officers in the province’s cottage country are emotionally exhausted after facing the grim task in the past week of repeatedly notifying families that their loved ones died in preventable accidents.
Provincial police Const. Skeeter Kruger said that in his 35 years living in Ontario’s Muskoka region, he doesn’t remember a more deadly week. A dozen people died in boating or other accidents.
“It’s terrifying that in the last week and a little bit, there were somewhere around a dozen deaths on our roads and waterways in Muskoka alone,” he said.
“It’s becoming taxing on the officers emotionally,” said Kruger. “The notification of next of kin, it takes its toll on officers.”
There were more accidents this past weekend in the Muskoka region – northwest of Toronto.
Provincial police spent Sunday searching for a camper who went missing in the water after a canoe overturned in Arrowhead Provincial Park, north of Huntsville, Ont.
Two men got into the canoe without lifejackets around midnight Saturday, but only one made it to shore. Police believe alcohol was involved. They said the man was not a strong swimmer. He is presumed drowned.
A 33-year-old man who was in critical condition after being thrown from a speeding boat that flipped in Muskoka Lake Saturday died in hospital just after midnight. In another boating accident Saturday, a man who was not wearing a life jacket drowned after his boat flipped over on Simcoe Lake.
An unusual amount of heavy rain this summer has flooded Ontario’s waterways, making the water higher, faster and more dangerous than in prior years, Kruger said.
Three men drowned last Sunday at the Moon River Falls and Wednesday two more men were swept away at a waterfall nearby on the same river. One of those men died Wednesday at the scene and the other died Thursday in hospital after being on life support.
“With the fast flowing water, our concern is that if they’re not familiar with the areas, they’re not sure what’s two inches, let alone two feet, under the surface of the water as far as obstacles and debris,” Kruger said.
Men between the ages of 18 and 34 who have been drinking and are not wearing lifejackets while participating in water activities are at a greater risk of drowning than the rest of the population, the Lifesaving Society of Canada warned earlier this summer.
More than 400 people drown in Canada each year and more than 60 per cent of those deaths occur during participation in summertime water activities, the society says.
Two people died in a Muskoka plane crash and another man fell out of a boat and died last weekend. There have also been two fatal vehicle crashes in the past week in Muskoka.
After a mostly rainy and cold summer, Kruger said vacationers may now be trying to take full advantage of summer, which can lead to bad decisions in and around water.
“We’re encouraging that people make quality, conscious decisions before undertaking any adventures in or around the water ways.”