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BC Coroners Service releases report on youth drowning

The BC Coroners Service is recommending new efforts be devoted to providing more effective water safety education, especially for teenage males aged 15 to 18.

The recommendation is one of three made by a Child Death Review panel into child and youth drowning. The report was made public Thursday.

The panel, which was chaired by Child Death Review Unit director Michael Egilson and included experts from a variety of child-serving and water safety agencies, reviewed the cases of 35 children and youth who drowned in B.C. in the years 2007 and 2013. The panel reaffirmed the many prevention messages put forth by the Lifesaving Society and Canadian Red Cross around water safety, supervision, boater safety, alcohol use, lifejacket/PFD use and pool safety.

The child death review panel also identified that some of these important messages are not getting through to the young people most at risk. Of the deaths reviewed, almost seven in 10 involved youths aged 15 to 18, and three-quarters of those who died were male. The cases show that males in that age group are particularly prone to underestimate the risk involved in activities, overestimate their own swimming abilities, and use substances, such as alcohol, which may affect their judgment, co-ordination and/or ability to self-rescue.

The panel recommends that the BC/Yukon branch of the Lifesaving Society bring together key stakeholders to develop messaging specifically targeted to young men in this age group. Teenaged males themselves will be asked to participate to try to determine how best to reach this demographic group.

The second recommendation was directed to the Canadian Red Cross to focus on ongoing education for parents, stressing especially the need for close and ongoing supervision of young children when in or around water, and the third backs the BC/Yukon branch of the Lifesaving Society in its efforts to work through the Union of BC Municipalities to encourage municipalities to pass bylaws which require four-sided secure fencing around backyard swimming pools.

The full text of the report can be found at:

http://www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/coroners/reports/docs/ChildDrowningDeathPanelReport.pdf.

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