Only an inquest has the teeth to force change that could make Manitoba beaches safer, the Lifesaving Society of Manitoba declared Monday after two young men drowned in provincial parks this weekend.

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Only an inquest has the teeth to force change that could make Manitoba beaches safer, the Lifesaving Society of Manitoba declared Monday after two young men drowned in provincial parks this weekend.

A total of four Manitobans have drowned in provincial parks this month.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>A lone life ring stands guard in lieu of lifeguards while Beachgoers enjoy the water at St Malo Provincial Park Monday afternoon.</p>

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A lone life ring stands guard in lieu of lifeguards while Beachgoers enjoy the water at St Malo Provincial Park Monday afternoon.

Sustainable Development Minister Catherine Cox announced a province-wide review of beach safety after two young children drowned at Grand Beach in early August.

That’s not enough, Lifesaving Society of Manitoba executive director Carl Shier argued Monday.

"An inquest has a lot more teeth in it than a review. When you get multiples under their authority and in provincial parks, you should tie it all together," Shier said.

Saturday, 22-year-old University of Manitoba student, Jean-Baptiste Ajua, drowned at Birds Hill Park, an artificial lake which Shier said is a maximum 5.5 feet deep.

In a separate drowning at Caddy Lake around 3:30 a.m. Saturday, police believe alcohol may have contributed to the death of a 26-year-old Winnipeg man.

"The Falcon Beach RCMP received the report of an adult male who had jumped off a dock on Caddy Lake to go for a swim. The male swam for a short distance and began to struggle. After disappearing under water, the male did not resurface," RCMP Sgt. Bert Paquet said Monday.

David Medina, left, 12, and Jhonalyn Javier, 11. The children drowned at Grand Beach while swimming at around 7:30 p.m. Monday night. This photo posted to Facebook by Eveliny Cordero was taken earlier that day. August 1, 2016.

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David Medina, left, 12, and Jhonalyn Javier, 11. The children drowned at Grand Beach while swimming at around 7:30 p.m. Monday night. This photo posted to Facebook by Eveliny Cordero was taken earlier that day. August 1, 2016.

Shier said an inquest’s findings would likely not change the outcome of tragedies such as the death at Caddy Lake.

But, he said, unless an inquest asks the toughest questions, better safety will not happen. That should include how other jurisdictions handle beach safety, and the role that lifeguards might play.

Beach patrollers are on duty in only three provincial parks — Grand Beach, Birds Hilland Winnipeg Beach — and Cox said after the Grand Beach drownings of two children that having patrols working with beachgoers and emphasizing education and prevention are more beneficial than lifeguards. Unlike beach patrollers, lifeguards actively monitor swimmers for dangerous activities and possible drownings.

Shier agreed that it’s not possible to achieve reasonable ratios of lifeguards to beachgoers at a large area, but said an inquest would show what role lifeguards could play. "There’s always a role — it’s something that has to be looked at."

Southeast Whiteshell fire chief Bruce Morrison said two of his members rushed to the scene on Caddy Lake in deputy fire chief Grant Fisette’s personal boat early Saturday morning and found the victim about eight minutes later.

"I called Grant, I said ‘Can you get over there right away?’ he said, ‘Absolutely, I’m already on the dock’," said Morrison. A second firefighter was able to join Fisette, and that firefighter went into the water to bring the victim into the boat, Morrison said.

"We hooked him up to all the instruments and kept performing CPR. There was no rhythm," Morrison said.

Morrison said that the tragedy occurred near a cabin on Block Road 6 on the south side of the lake --- on the west side of a small bay and directly across the water from the Caddy Lake girl guides camp.

He did not know the victim, who he said was among a small group of co-workers visiting the cabin with the granddaughter of the owners.

It was the first drowning on Caddy Lake which Morrison could recall.

STARS air ambulance said that a crew was dispatched at 3:48 a.m. Saturday, but was told to stand down at 4:07 a.m. because the incident no longer involved the transportation of a medical patient.

Cox’s staff said there is no update on the beach safety review called after two children drowned at Grand Beach, but Cox released a statement Monday, before the Caddy Lake drowning became known: "I am truly saddened by the recent tragic incidents that have occurred at Grand Beach and Birds Hill Park.

"The Manitoba Government is in the process of reviewing the entire program to ensure its effectiveness. It will be important to look at modernizing the beach safety program to make sure we are properly communicating and reaching all members of the public who enjoy our beaches."

STARS said it was called in on all the recent drownings, as well as near-drownings July 21 in Vassar and Aug. 4 in Minnedosa. STARS also was called to an extensive search in the lake at Birds Hall Park last Wednesday, when reports of a possible drowning turned out to be unfounded.

The Grand Beach and Birds Hill drowning victims were all relative newcomers to Canada.

The Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba’s acting executive director, Shereen Denetto, said that, "IRCOM does not currently offer any water safety classes, but we have in past years.

"We are considering applying again to the Manitoba Coalition for Safer Waters - Water Safety Grant, when the call is open, as this program can help fund the costs of running water safety programs including transportation, equipment and staff time.

"In the early summer, IRCOM offers a workshop for newcomer parents on summer activities and we do talk about water safety. When we take families to the beach or children and youth to the pool, we ensure that families receive water safety information and follow water safety guidelines, including providing lifejackets for those who cannot swim," Denetto said.

--- with files from Carol Sanders

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca