It was a sunny day and the lake was calm in Webequie First Nation, Ontario.
Frank Shewaybick, a citizen of Webequie First Nation was going for a boat ride on the south end of of the island, when he struck an unknown object in the lake
“I wasn’t expecting that to happen, because there was hardly any wind,” said Shewaybick.
Shewaybick, 53, was driving a 20’ canoe when he hit what he thinks was a log. He lost control of the motor, and the boat flipped on him.
Shewaybick was not wearing a life jacket.
When the boat flipped, Shewaybick’s torso hit the side of the boat. He lifted his shirt to show his bruised ribcage on the lefthand side. The pain from the impact was so intense, he said he couldn’t breathe, and he couldn’t swim.
“This is it,” he thought to himself. He thought he was going to die.
“I calmed myself down,” Shewaybick explained. He then managed to swim to shore and flag down another boater.
“I told my friends and they were laughing about it, I told them it wasn’t funny at that moment.”
Not a lot of people wear life jackets in Webequie, Shewaybick explained. He hopes his story will encourage other boaters to wear their life jackets at all times. Obstacles to wearing life jackets may include price, or availability in remote First Nations. A child's life jacket at the Northern Store costs $75.
The Canadian Red Cross reports approximately 525 Canadians die every year in water related accidents. Of those deaths, the Red Cross estimates 90 per cent of them could be prevented if the victims were wearing life jackets.
Statistically, Indigenous people are ten times more likely to die in water related accidents because they travel by boat and skidoo as part of their daily lives to go hunting and fishing.
The Red Cross offers a life jacket and personal flotation device loan project in 20 Canadian communities, but the closest one to Webequie is a Kettle and Stoney Point satellite office, roughly 1800 km away.
“Always wear a life jacket, it could save your life,” said Shewaybick. “Always be careful, while driving a boat out there.”