Kelsey Cameron and her husband were out walking their puppy in the evening on March 22nd when she happened upon a worrying scene.
“I saw children playing underneath the bridge [by the blue park] and decided to turn and head towards them just to usher them off away from the water. As we were walking closer, I saw a couple of them pop out onto the middle of the ice underneath the bridge where there was evidence of obvious water underneath the bridges; [there you have] the intersecting water where it doesn't really ever freeze the same way that the middle of the canal would per se.”
Cameron said that there were five kids, ranging in ages from approximately five years old to 10 years old. She asked the kids if their parents knew where they were, to which the kids replied yes.
“One of them actually went through to his knees when he jumped out to the middle. He said, ‘There I actually fell through and I didn't go that far.’ Which kind of really shocked me,” Cameron said.
Several days ago, the Airdrie Fire Department issued a press release on ice safety and avoiding ice altogether stating, “Parents and guardians should discuss the danger of playing on or near natural waterways with their children. Ice conditions are currently, extremely unpredictable.”
The release also underlined that the danger is that ice seldom freezes uniformly. Ice will be thinner when it is formed over moving water, and where it surrounds partially submerged objects such as rocks or vegetation.
Cameron did manage to corral the kids off the ice and made sure they made their way home, rather than returning to the canals.
“I did speak to the neighbour of the blue park that was right in the corner of the pathway, as I saw him out there and I just said maybe keep an eye on there for the kids," she said. "My husband and I were talking afterwards and I was saying, 'I don't know, maybe we talk to the fire department and ask them to come along the shores and break up the ice so that people are more aware of it or maybe patrol it."
Cameron, who herself lives in Bayside and has a home that backs out directly onto the water, said she was particularly alarmed at what she encountered as she vividly remembers that several years ago a tragedy occurred close to her home. In 2017, a six-year-old boy died when he fell through the ice into the canal in Bayside.
“It was actually at the end of our canal and if you look down, you can see the bridge where he actually passed away,” she said. “My oldest was the same age as the [boy] that had passed away and went to the same school.”
She said that she doesn’t want to see the canals shut down due to misbehaviour, but there is also a role of the parents and other adults that play an integral part in ensuring safety.
“It just takes parents to be responsible, [to] know where their children are, it doesn't fall on the community entirely. Parents have to be aware that we live in an area where there's water and hazards and know where they are,” she said. “But then when they're not around, I guess it's up to the community and village of people we live with to ensure that children are safe. I would not have walked away knowing that those kids were playing there.”
According to a ten-year research study (1991-2001) conducted by The Canadian Red Cross Society & the Canadian Surveillance System for Water-Related Fatalities, 78 per cent of deaths between the ages of 0-14 due to drowning (including without hypothermia and hypothermia without drowning) occurred when playing on the ice, “thus children under 15 represented 40 per cent of victims”.
According to the Airdrie Fire Department's press release, "Dramatically fluctuating temperatures have now made all-natural ice surfaces in the city unpredictable and extremely dangerous."
(Editor’s note: The City of Airdrie and the Airdrie Fire Department were not available for comment at the time of publication)
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