RCMP, Coast Guard highlight water safety on Lake Winnipeg following Manitoba tragedies

Manitoba RCMP and the Canadian Coast Guard put a spotlight on water safety Sunday by holding a joint training exercise for search and rescue crews to improve communication, coordination with a focus on life saving skills, such as rescuing stranded boaters. 

It’s been a difficult start to the summer on the water for some Manitobans that has led to multiple deaths. Four young Manitoba men have died in three separate incidents in the past week.

On Thursday, a rescue operation was required to save two people stranded in a sailboat on Lake Winnipeg. 

“Anytime you’re on the water, search and rescue, it’s a high risk maneuver and high risk situations you go into,” said RCMP Staff Sgt. Bob Chabot who was taking part in the exercise.

About half way through the training session a real emergency interrupted the exercise because two people in a sailboat were stuck in a fishing net.

The Canadian Coast Guard said that’s just one of many hazards people can run into when they are enjoying time on the lake.

It said because the lake is so large, it’s imperative other search and rescue teams, like the RCMP are able to step in and respond quickly. 

“A lot of groundings in Lake Winnipeg as it’s so shallow,” said Officer in Charge Carson Dueck. “The wind picks up, it’s very unpredictable for novice boaters.” 

In the case of Sunday’s stuck sailboat, because RCMP and the coast guard were already on the water for the training exercise, both jumped into action, and towed the sailboat back to shore.

Both crews say generally, planning activities in advance helps improve chances of survival in an emergency. 

“Don’t drink and boat. Boat smart, boat safe. A VHF (high frequency) radio will help you a lot,” said Dueck.

“The most important thing is wear a life jacket. Can’t stress that enough,” said Chabot.

RCMP said a majority of deaths in the water are preventable and it’s important to think about the consequences of falling in.

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