Tragic drownings impact two Westman communities

Two tragic drownings occurred at Westman recreation spots within a matter of six days.

On July 15, the body of a 39-year old man from Canupawakpa was found in Reston Lake after a search over several hours.

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At approximately 8:50pm Westman RCMP responded to a call of a possible drowning at Reston Lake. When officers arrived on scene, they learned that a male had been swimming in the lake with family members. When the family exited the water, the male was not with them. They began searching for him and called police.

The local fire department attended and searched the water. RCMP, Manitoba First Nations Police Service, and the remaining emergency services in attendance searched the surrounding area.

Fire departments from Virden and Oak Lake arrived with rescue teams and searched the water of Reston Lake. A couple of hours later, the 39-year-old male from Canupawakpa was located under water and brought to shore. He was pronounced deceased.

The most recent drowning occurred on July 20 at Kenworth Dam when a 52-year old man from Kenton was swimming alone.

At approximately 4:30 pm, Westman RCMP received a report of a possible drowning at the Kenton dam at the Kenton Campground in the RM of Wallace-Woodworth. Police were told that a man had been swimming alone. The witnesses left and returned approximately half an hour later and the man was nowhere to be seen.  His vehicle and his dog were still at the scene. Upon arrival police began the search.

Searches were conducted on shore as well as by boat for several hours, but the male was not found. The RCMP Underwater Recovery Team attended the scene and deployed their Underwater Remote Operated Vehicle. The male was located and brought to shore. The 52-year-old male from Kenton was pronounced deceased.

AUTHORITIES RESPOND

The Reeve of the RM of Pipestone Archie McPherson said the municipality had taken steps following the drowning at Reston Lake.

“We’ve hired local security that will be monitoring the lake.” The concern is to ensure people follow the rules that have always been in place, including no alcohol at the water recreation area.

“It been always that way, but we’re going to make sure people are abiding by the rules,” says McPherson. “You can have alcohol at the camp sites, you can have alcohol at the clubhouse. Not at the lake or splash park.”

Reston’s lake has been a popular go-to during this hot summer and there are rules clearly stated there. A floating dock mid-lake had a slide on it. The shores of this small lake taper in to a depth between six and seven feet.

The reeve says, “We took it off temporarily. We don’t know if we’re going to put it back on. People were abusing it. There’s only six feet of water, so they shouldn’t be diving off the top of the slide.”

To ensure that people follow the safety rules McPherson says the security officers can call the police if need be. “If people don’t abide (by the law) appropriate charges will be laid.”

Asked if alcohol was a factor RCMP Sgt. Scott Fefchak could not answer definitively. He said, “But, we would always encourage people not to mix swimming when consuming liquor. 

As far as follow up, the medical examiner will conduct their investigation and advise us if there are further avenues to look into. As of right now, there is nothing to suggest criminality was a factor in either of these events.”

When calls are received, RCMP attend and determine what has occurred prior to requesting any further resources. “If, while we’re enroute, we determine that someone is for certain missing and believed to be in the water, we can begin getting additional resources rolling to the scene while we’re initially responding.”

Drowning deaths occur quickly and off-site rescue agencies can’t get there in time to save people that go missing in the water. Sgt. Fefchak says, “We encourage people to use the buddy system, and ensure you know where your buddy is at all times.” 

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