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Family of drowned man urges safety around water, drownings up in Alberta

Last Updated Aug 9, 2021 at 10:02 am MDT

EDMONTON – The family of an Edmonton man who died trying to rescue a dog that had fallen through the ice is asking others to always be careful around water.

Family and friends gathered in Edmonton’s river valley Sunday afternoon to honour the life of Robert White, who passed away after attempting to rescue a stranger’s dog this past spring.

“He’s the most spectacular person I know. It comes down to love, if I had to describe him in one word it would be love,” Robert’s son, Alliance White, said at the gathering over the weekend.

“He lived with a whole lot of joy, he was an artist, a writer, and the best friend someone could ask for,” echoed Chris Barrett, a long-time friend of Robert.

Drowning is the third leading cause of death in Canada, with an average of 400 drowning deaths each year.


“There’s always a risk, there’s always a danger on the water or near the water, so at all times be careful because you really never know what can happen and you don’t expect it until it does happen,” said Alliance.

The Lifesaving Society says sadly White isn’t the only one who has lost their life attempting a rescue.

A lot of drownings happen as a result of someone trying to save another person or a pet in the water.

“Often the dogs can survive and get out safe, but it’s the individuals that go after them we often see a tragic loss of life for. It’s really important under those circumstances to call 911 and to not go in after them because you’re likely to put yourself in more danger,” said Kelly Carter with the society.

Most drownings in Canada happen in natural bodies of water. Less than one per cent of drownings happen in a lifeguard-supervised setting.


“And that’s where we see most of those natural hazards that we see such as cold water, currents, or sudden drop-offs that can contribute to unexpected issues for people in those areas,” said Carter.

The Alberta RCMP says there has been a notable increase in drownings this year, with officers responding to more than 20 incidents so far.

That number already exceeds the 18 drownings RCMP responded to in all of 2020.

British Columbia and Yukon have had even more drownings this year. According to the Lifesaving Society, there have been 32 drownings in British Columbia and the Yukon this year so far.

That number jumps to 51 in Quebec.


But, experts say precautions can be the difference between life and death.

“The number one thing to note is that lifejackets only work if you wear them, and we know they save lives. If you’re in a boat, no matter how good of a swimmer you are, make sure you have a lifejacket on,” Carter added.