Huronia West OPP remembers Zach during Drowning Prevention Week


Nine-year-old Zach Haskett drowned ten years ago in the mouth of the Nottawasaga River in Wasaga Beach, his mother continues to advocate for water safety


National Drowning Prevention Week takes place July 17-23, 2022, and members of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Huronia West Detachment are warning the public of the dangers of the beach while remembering Nine-year-old Zach, who tragically drowned 10 years ago. Unfortunately, some days on the beach end in tragedy.

Every summer, Wasaga Beach welcomes thousands of visitors who come to enjoy the 14 kilometers of sandy beaches that line the Georgian Bay shoreline. It is also a sanctuary for residents who can enjoy the beauty of the beach, 365 days a year. Unfortunately, every year the OPP is called in for swimming and boating emergencies and sadly some end tragically. Many of these tragedies are preventable.

The OPP has already rescued dozens of people this year alone in the waters of Georgian Bay. The public is reminded of their personal responsibility to ensure water safety for themselves and their children. Our local beaches are not supervised.

The OPP would also like to remind everyone that swimming at the mouth of the Nottawasaga River is dangerous and is strongly discouraged as dangerous undertow affected by wind and weather conditions can create a current that will take you underwater, no matter how strong a swimmer. you are.

The dynamic weather changes that occur on the beach can also cause dangerous sea winds which are often responsible for blowing inflatables into dangerous waters and are responsible for many of our police rescues.

Zach was only nine years old when he lost his life on July 18, 2012. Zach entered the water at the mouth of the Nottawasaga River, where he could not fight the undertow and drowned. His mother, Melissa Hasketts, continues to miss him every day.

“If Zach were here today he would be 19. Always loved, always missed. Not a second goes by that I don’t think of him,” she said.

Melissa has become an advocate for water safety, promoting swimming lessons and all things water safety in memory of Zach and to save other families from going through the pain of such a tragic loss.

The OPP asks the public to obey any signage posted on the beach. Do not swim in unauthorized areas. The mouth of the river is one of these areas. There is also a lot of boat traffic in this area, in addition to the natural movement of the river, which makes it an extremely dangerous place to be in the water.

The Lifesaving Society has several drowning prevention tips:

  • Supervise children. “If you’re not within reach, you’ve gone too far.
  • Always wear a life jacket when in a boat or participating in water activities.
  • Learn to swim. Could you survive a sudden and unexpected fall into the water?
  • Stay sober.
  • Open water safety. Make wise choices before going in, on or around the water.
  • Keep learning. You can save a life. Yours and someone else’s. Take a learn-to-swim, lifesaving or first aid course.

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The OPP would also like to remind swimmers that life jackets can be borrowed free of charge at any warden station or Ontario Parks office in Wasaga Beach.

“As a resident and frequent user of the beaches and waterways of Wasaga Beach, I often witness senseless tragedies that occur on or in the water, therefore, I ask parents to please supervise their children when they’re near the water. making sure they’re within easy reach,” said Inspector Leah Gilfoy, Detachment Commander Huronia West OPP. “Wear your life jackets, whether you’re in a boat or on the an inflatable raft. Know your own limits when it comes to enjoying the water.”

“No Swimming” signs are posted for a reason, please take heed and obey them. I want to see everyone have fun safely and enjoy the beach. Please don’t want to receive a phone call from one of my agents announcing yet another senseless tragedy that could be avoided.”

The OPP plays a role in drowning prevention through proactive patrols and combines law enforcement efforts with public education to improve marine and water safety. A critical part of law enforcement work is saving lives and reducing injuries on our waterways.



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