Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut August 11, 2014 - 7:22 am

Beware of swimming cold waters and strong currents, Nunavut coroner warns

Four people in Nunavut die by drowning in just two months


Nunavut’s chief coroner is warning Nunavummiut to be careful about swimming in cold water and strong currents.

Four people in Nunavut have drowned between the start of June and the beginning of August, Padma Suramala, Nunavut’s chief coroner, said Aug. 8.

Two people drowned near Coral Harbour this past June, one in Whale Cove July 14 and another most recently in Cape Dorset, Suramala told Nunatsiaq News.

All deaths involved young people aged 17 to 25.

Investigations of each case showed the victims overestimated their swimming abilities and underestimated “the risk factors of high currents and cold waters,” Suramala said.

“Even if there is no current, it is vary dangerous in cold water,” the chief coroner said. “The person will go into hypothermia within three to four minutes, and the body starts to shut down.”

Once that happens, “even if you are a good swimmer you won’t be able to swim,” she said.

The Office of the Chief Coroner recommended in an Aug. 8 news release that:

• officials responsible for safety and prevention initiatives continue campaigns that focus on reminding people of the risks, consequences and choices that exist in a number of potentially dangerous situations, including drowning.

• children and youth should receive education on water survival techniques and drowning prevention measures; and,

• all community members encourage and implement water safety and drowning prevention messages to keep youth safe in, on, and near water.

Police have received several other calls involving cases of near-drowning, or possible drowning throughout the territory this summer, including a case involving three boys in Cambridge Bay.

“It’s very important to know and educate people” about the hazards involved with swimming in Nunavut’s cold waters, Suramala said.

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