Accidental falls into water pose risk for young children: Canadian Red Cross report

Topics: National, Water Safety
June 27, 2014

(Ottawa, June 27, 2014) – Nearly 100 Canadians drown every year, many of them young children, after they unexpectedly fall into the water, states a new report released today by the Canadian Red Cross compiling 20 years of data.

The report, which examines water-related fatalities between 1991 - 2010 shows that children aged 1-4 are most at risk, accounting for more than 20 per cent of all fatalities due to unexpected falls around water. Of those who died from unexpected falls in the water, 28 per cent occurred at shoreline, 14 per cent occurred at poolside, and 9 per cent happened by a wharf.

“With the long weekend approaching, the Red Cross is urging Canadians to take precautions, when engaging in any activities on or around the water,” says Rick Caissie, director general, prevention and safety with the Canadian Red Cross. “A drowning can happen very quickly and it is critical that children have lifejackets on whenever they are near the water.”

On average, 525 people drown every year. The majority of these incidents occurred between May 1- August 31 while Canadians engaged in recreational activities on inland bodies of water such as lakes, ponds, rivers and streams.

The report, ‘Water-Related Fatalities: Facts at a Glance’, is the first 20-year review of drowning research by the Red Cross. Highlights of the report focusing on the risk of unexpected falls into water include:

  • Over a 20 year period, there were more than 1,950 fatalities related to unexpected falls.
  • On average, there are 97 deaths per year due to unexpected falls, including individuals engaging in recreational activities at cottages, pools and wharfs who never intended to enter the water.
  • Children aged one to four accounted for 21 per cent of fatalities.
  • For individuals over 15, alcohol is a contributing factor in at least 39 per cent of fatalities.
  • While fatalities occurred across all provinces, the Territories had a rate several times the national average.

“The long weekend is a wonderful time to enjoy the water,” adds Caissie. “But whether you are at your cottage, the beach or a pool we urge you to keep yourself and your family safe both on and around the water.”

The Red Cross Swim program is based on research as to why and how Canadians drown and is continuously updated to reflect the latest findings. This summer, Red Cross Swim will be updated to include optional skill items where swimmers are wearing clothing in the water, which will help them recognize the additional challenges involved with unexpected falls into water, and prepare them to respond and react appropriately.

The Red Cross has been helping to keep Canadians safe in, on and around water since 1946. To read the full report or for more information about Canadian Red Cross swimming and water safety programs, and safety tips, visit

Water-Related Fatality Facts At A Glance: Canada 1991-2010

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