A man drowned Saturday in Kootenay Lake after venturing out onto a popular sandspit just north of Nelson.
RCMP said in a statement Tuesday that the 23-year-old man died after he was unable to stay above the surface at Six Mile beach.
The man’s body was recovered by the RCMP divers Sunday. The death is not considered suspicious.
Rachel Swan and Onami Lee-Hem were at the beach together when they saw a man and woman approach on a kayak late Saturday afternoon.
The pair left the kayak on the beach, took off their life jackets and walked to the point, which extends out under shallow water into Kootenay Lake.
Lee-Hem said the sound of the woman’s screams alerted the beach, which at the time she said was busy with visitors.
She saw the man’s head go under the water three times before failing to surface again on the fourth time. The woman meanwhile was also struggling.
“She was the one screaming and calling over and over,” said Lee-Hem. “After he disappeared she screamed for five, 10 minutes straight just calling, calling him.”
Swan was one of the people who ran from the beach to the water to help the couple. She was first to the woman in the water and helped her to a nearby paddleboard that another person had brought to them.
Swan said another boat arrived and provided her with a mask. She began to swim around the lake looking for the man.
She said she knew right away the man had likely drowned.
“I couldn’t see anything. The water was so dark and murky and it drops off so fast,” said Swan.
“I knew pretty quick it was a recovery mission at that point but I just personally couldn’t get out of the water. I just wanted to stay in there and make some efforts. … I just felt so helpless.”
Lee-Hem said she hadn’t been aware how dangerous the point can be. The beach, which is on Crown land, has a sign approaching the spot warning about a sharp drop and undertow at the point.
But the sign is also covered in graffiti, and there are no further signs on the beach.
“People need to know,” said Lee-Hem. “I’ve lived here five years and I didn’t know how extraordinarily dangerous it actually is. It seems so calm and safe, it’s shallow, you can see the bottom.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated the beach is on private land. It is actually Crown land.
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