Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 2/8/2016 (2123 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
GRAND BEACH — The water was calm Tuesday as children laughed and played along the freshly combed shore of Grand Beach.
There was no sign of the tragic drowning of two children Monday evening.
Despite what beachgoers described as ideal conditions following a storm Monday, an 11-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy drowned after the boy’s parents lost sight of them around 7:30 p.m., RCMP confirmed Tuesday.
"The two children were in the water together and being supervised by the parents of the 12-year-old boy when one of the parents lost track of the children due to the setting sun," RCMP said in a news release.
Darrell Flett, owner of Olivia’s Beach Boutique, was working at the beach when the children went missing.
"They were doing a ground search at the start. It was a lot of the (beach safety) officers that came, even the ones that were off duty. They all got called and everybody was here, so they had all hands on deck."
Wendy Nichol was walking on the boardwalk when the urgent search began.
She said she watched as beach safety officers waded through the water in search of the children.
'Then they shouted, "We've got them," and they were scooped up instantly and placed on the sand. I cried out, "Oh God no!" over and over'‐ witness Wendy Nichol
"I was convinced (the children) were probably at the arcade or off riding their bikes somewhere. After about 10 or so minutes, they were up to their necks now, and then seemed to huddle and then they shouted, ‘We’ve got them,’ and they were scooped up instantly and placed on the sand. I cried out, ‘Oh God no!’ over and over," Nichol wrote in a post in the Grand Beach & Grand Marais Facebook group.
"Shattered — I kept thinking how could this happen. They weren’t toddlers. There were two of them. The waters were calm. The water isn’t deep. But it happened, and it’s nobody’s fault."
Emergency workers tried resuscitating the children for 30 minutes.
Their names were not released.
Cam Heke, a spokesman with STARS air ambulance, confirmed the helicopter was called to the beach around 8 p.m.
"Our hearts go out to the families and those closely connected," Heke said. "This was a very public tragedy. There were many people on the beach and on the boardwalk watching. This will resonate with the community in a very difficult way."
There were 12 beach safety officers on staff at the time, said Renée Barnabé, program manager of Emergency Rescue Response Services at Grand Beach. Beach safety officers, who do not have the same responsibilities as lifeguards, walk the entire beach, often out of sight of large sections of water.
Barnabé said the double drowning has had a serious effect on her team.
"It’s very difficult," Barnabé said. "We train for this and we talk about the things that could happen during an incident, but once you actually have to go through it, it’s a little bit different. Very difficult on the staff."
Barnabé said support services will be provided for those involved. She said she believed it’s the first drowning at the popular beach since the late 1990s.
On Tuesday morning, it was as if nothing had happened, but the tragedy was still on the minds of some beachgoers.
Emil Contreras was on the beach Tuesday with friends and family. His daughter is nearly three years old, and he was keeping a close eye.
"We typically keep a really close eye on her anyways, but when you hear something like that, you’re just more cautious and more careful when you’re at the beach or anywhere there’s water."
Contreras said he was nearby when the search for the children began.
"We were at the tennis courts. We heard sirens coming into the park, into the beach area. One right after the other and shortly after that we heard the helicopter coming down, circling the beach," he said.
Contreras’s friend, Calvin Moore, was with him.
He said the incident makes him want to keep his two sons, ages 4 and 6, closer. "They’re at a certain age, and you can’t let them go too far. But it makes you much more aware of your surroundings."
Disappearance of children is not uncommon to typical drowning incidents. Chris Love, water smart co-ordinator at Lifesaving Society Manitoba, said a person can drown in as few as 10 seconds.
"If your mouth is open, you suck back a mouthful of water, it goes into your lungs, you can pass out really, really fast," Love said.
"Drowning is very silent. It’s very quick (and) it’s very easy to miss. So you need to have someone who is actively paying attention and actually watching."
Love said older kids — even younger teenagers — should be actively supervised by an adult when they’re in the water.
"Knowing how to swim does help, but again, that’s not the only thing that’s going to help," he said.
"Our stats show that about 40 per cent to 45 per cent of people who drown don’t know how to swim. But that still means that somewhere between 55 and 60 per cent do know how to swim."
Drowning deaths in Canada and Manitoba have decreased significantly in the last 25 years, Love said.
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He said annual drowning deaths across the country have decreased to 466 in 2013 compared with 683 in 1990. He said in Manitoba, drowning deaths have gone down from 20 to 22 annually from about 37 per year in the 1990s.
"We have seen a decline — it is significant. We still have work to go. One drowning is one too many. We don’t want to see any if at all possible," he said.
While he couldn’t give definitive numbers for 2015 and 2016, Love said nine or 10 drowning deaths have occurred in Manitoba so far this year. He said the numbers become available when coroner reports are released 18 months after the end of the calendar year.