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Atlantic Canada saw more than 30 water-related deaths in 2018

P.E.I. Ground Search and Rescue volunteers continued their search of a section of shoreline at North Cape Thursday, while looking for two men missing since their fishing boat went down in rough seas on Tuesday.
In this Journal Pioneer File Photo: P.E.I. Ground Search and Rescue volunteers continue their search of a section of shoreline at North Cape , while looking for two men missing since their fishing boat went down in rough seas. - Eric McCarthy

There were over 30 unintentional water-related deaths in Atlantic Canada in 2018 according to unofficial statistics from Canadian Red Cross.

Last year saw 39 deaths. From 2012 to 2017, the Atlantic provinces averaged about 38 unintentional water-related deaths collectively.

Compared with the averages for the preceding five years, however, 2018 saw a significant decline in such fatalities in New Brunswick, a small increase in Nova Scotia and a significant increase in Prince Edward Island, while the Newfoundland and Labrador figure equalled that province's average for the previous five years.

P.E.I saw six water-related deaths last year, four more than the 2012-2017 average. Four of the six fatalities involved commercial fishing vessels, including one incident where two boats collided in June and one that capsized in September.

The other Island fatalities were a Quebec tourist swimming at an unsupervised beach near Cavendish, and a man who died following a watercraft collision in Charlottetown harbour.

Reduce the risk
The Canadian Red Cross compiled a few steps to reduce the risk of drowning, including:

  • Wearing a personal floatation device while boating, riding an ATV or snowmobile or working on or near any body of water
  • Not consuming alcohol or drugs before or while swimming, boating, snowmobiling or riding an ATV
  • Staying off frozen lakes or rivers unless certain that ice thickness I sufficient for activities like walking, skating or snowmobiling
  • Installing four-sided fencing with self-closing/locking gates around backyard pools
  • Taking swimming lessons

The Canadian Red Cross examines a range of sources including police, media and social media reports and obituary notices to produce the figures. Unintentional water related deaths include drowning, hypothermia, pre-existing medical conditions or trauma injuries, while excluding known or suspected suicide.

In New Brunswick, fatalities included a man from Maine whose kayak overturned in the Bay of Fundy, another man whose canoe overturned on a lake near Musquash and a father and daughter who died after a raft overturned in rapids on the Miramichi River. There were four in total.

In Nova Scotia, seven of the 16 fatalities involved commercial or recreational fishing. Four cases involved recreational boating and two occurred while recreational swimming. There were also rare circumstances, including a woman who fell through ice while skiing across a lake, a driver whose dump truck slid into Halifax harbour while unloading fill and a toddler who drowned in a backyard pool.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the 13 recorded fatalities include eight associated with commercial or recreational fishing or boating; three involved recreational swimming; a woman who collapsed after entering the Humber River to cool off during extreme heat in July; and a man who died after a vehicle left a road southwest of Terra Nova and crashed into a lake in November.

Males ranging in age from two to 78 accounted for the 33 of the 39 fatalities and women ranging in age from 29 to 82 accounted for the other six.

Additional information including research reports and water safety tips can be found online at

Related: P.E.I. fishing tragedies named 2018 News Story of the Year

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