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Tragic Deaths

Yes… I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth, though there were times when even I was wondering where I was. It’s been a busy, busy, busy few months, but things are starting to ease up… for now.

Yes… I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth, though there were times when even I was wondering where I was. It’s been a busy, busy, busy few months, but things are starting to ease up… for now.



There have been a number of tragic deaths in the media recently.

Close to home, two men canoeing in grass Lake, near Sundridge, fell into the water when the boat capsized. One managed to swim to shore, but the other drowned. Neither were wearing life jackets.

A woman in Moose Factory Island drowned while swimming in the Moose River with two male friends. They were caught in tidal swells, but the men managed to reach shore.

Overall there were 16 deaths that occurred over the holiday weekend in Ontario.

In BC, a 17 year-old youth died from an apparent drug overdose. Jack Brodie was described as being “a bright youth with a promising future.” Unfortunately, Jack also, according to his sister, enjoyed taking recreational drugs.

Jack and a friend had taken street fentanyl, also called fake Oxycontin, or “fake 80s”. Both young men passed out after taking the drug. His friend was in-and-out of consciousness, and managed to call 9-1-1. Unfortunately, Jack never regained consciousness.

So… what makes a death “tragic”?

Is it the age of the person who died?

The first drowning victim was 27. The second was 24. Jack was only 17.

Certainly we think of it as “tragic” when someone who would seem to be looking forward to many years of life dies unexpectedly.

Or is the tragedy in the means of their death. A canoe capsizing; getting caught in a tilde current while swimming; a drug overdoes.

Or is the tragedy in the fact that the death was largely preventable?

The canoeists were not wearing PFDs. While it is true that there would have been no guarantee that had they been wearing a life jackets both would have survived — the victim may have suffered a fatal head injury when the boat capsized. But there have been far too many deaths attributed to boaters not wearing life PFDs.

The swimmers made a choice to go swimming. The two that survived were intoxicated. It is unknown at this time if the victim had been drinking, too, but it is likely that the decision to go swimming where and when they did was not sound.

It could be said that the young man who died from the drug overdose was also author of his own misfortune. He was not what we would describe as a “druggie”. He was just an average teenager, one who got his kicks from taking drugs to get a euphoric high.

In all three cases, the deaths were preventable.

In New Hampshire, USA, a sudden and severe windstorm caused a circus tent to collapse, killing a man and his 2 year-old daughter, and injured 22 others.

But wait… how could deaths in a freak storm be preventable? Because the circus organizers knew, or ought to have known, that a “severe storm warning” had been issued, and with winds gusting up to 100 km/h, should have cancelled the show and had everyone seek cover.

Sadly, there are just too many tragic deaths. 

Jack’s sister stated in an interview that her brother enjoyed getting high, and admitted that teenagers feel invincible, as though nothing bad could ever happen to them.

In fact, many adults feel the same way. 

I’ve spoken with adults who don’t wear PFDs, who state with assurance that they are “good swimmers”, and that they always have a life jacket on board. The problem occurs when you fall overboard and are not within reach of the PFD, or worse still, when you get knocked unconscious.

I’ve also heard people tell me how many times they have been out in their boat without incident. 

Sadly, the old adage “there’s always a first time” often is also the last time.

No, we cannot cocoon ourselves in bubble wrap, sit safely in our homes, diligently avoiding any kind of risk. But when we do assume some risk, we need to also assume some responsibility for ourselves… and others!

A few weeks ago David Rothwell went swimming with his 8 year-old daughter and another man at a popular quarry site near Ottawa. This quarry has a delineated swimming area at one end, and high cliffs at the other, clearly fenced-off and marked “UNSAFE, DO NOT ENTER”.

Unfortunately, the two men decided to ignore the warning signs, and shouts from others, and climb the cliffs. Rothwell jumped off the 23-metre cliff, surfaced once, and then was not seen again.

The most tragic part of this isn’t his death, but that his young daughter was there to witness it.

If you choose to engage in a high-risk behaviour, that is your choice. But consider the consequences should something go horribly wrong, not only for yourself but for your family and friends.

The tragedy in many deaths that occur isn’t the age of the victim, nor the means of their deaths. 

No, the tragedy is when those deaths may have been prevented by simply taking more precautions, or better evaluating the risk involved.

Stay safe.