M.L.R.A. Executive holds emergency meeting to discuss the recent tragic events
By Rick Wigmore
First of all, the members of the MLRA Executive, on behalf of the residents of Musselman’s Lake, would like to express their condolences to the Families of the young drowning victims Sabrina Alibhai, 15 years of age and her very close friend Gift Diji, 16. We are going to try to make sure they didn’t die in vain.
Here is an example of what we are up against. On Sunday afternoon Jane Grinnell and myself along with our significant others Andrew and Linda were cruising around the lake on our boat discussing this upcoming emergency meeting. Jane noticed 4 young people launching a small inflatable boat from Glendale Beach. They were paddling the boat in a very erratic manner so Jane suggested we approach them. There was a young lady sitting on the bow with what appeared to be a beer. Jane asked them if they had any life jackets on board. They replied no. She asked them if they knew 2 drownings had just occurred with a similar boat and no life jackets. They said they knew but they were all good swimmers. So basically don’t bother us we know what we’re doing.
Now let’s put this “good swimmer” term into perspective. Musselman’s Lakes looks small but in terms of a swimmer is larger than everyone thinks. The lake is ¾ of a mile long and ½ of a mile wide at its widest. That means from the middle of the lake to the nearest shore is 66 backyard pool lengths. These” good swimmers” would have to swim this distance having already expended the energy to paddle out to the middle. And how many “good swimmers” have died trying to rescue their not so good swimming friends. But what we’re dealing with is that attitude it happened to them but it can’t happen to me….but it can.
Ian Feld, another member of the executive, saw an adult swimmer out in the middle of the water and went up to the person to say they were hard to spot from a boat and maybe swimming in the middle wasn’t the safest thing to do. For showing his concern he got a 2 word reply F*ck Off!
These two shining examples show that prevention is going to be a challenge.
We held the emergency meeting on a pontoon boat on the lake with a bouquet of flowers to honour the girls.
They could not have had a better first responder than Kyle Jenkin, who before entering the family business was a police officer. He led us very carefully through the event and we were able to discuss thoroughly on ways we might solve the difficulties he encountered.
Kyle was returning to his cottage just after 8 P.M., when he heard screams. “You’re pulling me under!” He turned around and the girls were gone leaving only the white inflatable boat marking the spot. Kyle’s training quickly kicked in and he fixed the boat’s position using shoreline references. He then had to lower his boat from the boat lift and go out to where he thought the boat had been because remember it is drifting. He tried to get other boaters attention, phoned 911, then dove in the water to try and find them. Mike Wigmore and his boatload of friends quickly joined the search and all accomplished swimmers quickly dove in where Kyle indicated they might be but couldn’t locate the girls.
Other boaters arrived at the scene along with the police helicopter with a very powerful searchlight which really penetrated the darkness of the water. By that time it was getting dark. The boats were equipped with generators and high powered lights supplied by resident Mike Feld… all to no avail.
The reality of the situation is that you have only 8 minutes to successfully save a drowning person. It takes Police and EMS approximately 10 minutes to get to the lake and another 20 minutes to unload or pump up boats and suit up; so, we really know the shoreline residents have to be observant and be the first responders. All power boats on the lake have licensed drivers, life jackets, bailers and flares. So we looked at cost efficient ways to do things differently based on our knowledge of this tragic accident.
Problem #1- Marking accident site. We know that positions and conditions change quickly on water with wave action, wind and currents. Everything moves unlike on land.
Possible Solution– Most boats carry bumpers and have to carry an anchor and anchor line. The first responder should immediately throw a bumper with line and an anchor attached to mark the site before everything changes.
Problem #2- Alerting other boaters. We need to alert other boaters fast that there is a problem and help is needed.
Possible Solution– Rather than waving arms and yelling, fire off a flare. It will alert more people to an emergency quicker.
Another Possible Solution– Equip boats and certain docks around the lake with bullhorns/sirens again to attract attention to the emergency.
Problem #3- Locating a drowning victim in up to 15 feet of water and 15 feet of weeds.
Possible Solution– Equipping one or several boats with Sonar devices or Fish Finders capable of locating a person on the bottom. Drowning victims sink to the bottom and do not float again for around 16 hours. We need a method to scan the bottom.
Problem #4- Divers and boats should not be operating in the close proximity. This is simply too dangerous for the divers.
Possible Solution – Once the victim is located boats should clear the area for the divers to investigate.
Also discussed was the forming of the MLRA “LAKE WATCH” something like neighbourhood watch only of the lake. This would involve getting resident volunteers to sign up with emergency contact numbers and their abilities, whether it be providing a boat or first aid or just being an observer to alert boats to an impending or potential emergency. An issue was raised as to liability but in Canada unlike the neighbours to the South a rescuer cannot be sued in any way for trying to help in an emergency situation.
Under prevention it was talked about posting warning signs but the “no trespassing” signs at Glendale Beach are routinely ignored.
We talked about issuing extra life jackets to boaters with MLRA logos which could be distributed to inflatable boats found lacking. But it was felt these jackets would rather than be returned simply disappear.
Councillor Bannon is organizing a meeting, hopefully in August, with members of the executive and York Regional Police – Marine Unit, Fire and EMS to formulate an immediate response plan. Once a plan has been developed we will have an open meeting with the residents to discuss plans and any and all positive concerns. Open meeting to probably take place in September.
Another discussion took place about organizing a boating and water safety meeting to be held in the Spring and presented by Marine Unit Police.
In the meantime, any suggestions or ideas should be sent into the Musselman’s Lake Residents Association web site at