Calgary man drowns in Columbia Lake

A 32-year-old Calgary man drowned in the north-west end of Columbia Lake on June 28th after his canoe capsized.

Ryan Bjolverud, a third year firefighter, had been camping with family and friends near Fairmont Hot Springs. Mr Bjolverud and a friend decided to go fishing at 4 a.m, paddling approximately 200 metres offshore before their canoe suddenly turned over.

As the firefighter was not a strong swimmer, his friend attempted to swim back in with the canoe and him in tow, RCMP Cpl. Grant Simpson said. When the friend noticed the firefighter struggling to keep on the surface, he attempted to help him, but this became too exhausting.

After Mr. Bjolverud was unable to resurface, the friend swam to shore and called 911. The Columbia Valley RCMP arrived on location at 5:50 a.m. The waters and shoreline were searched, but Mr. Bjolverud was not located until hours later. The B.C. Coroners Service has since joined the RCMP in handling the investigation into the accident.

Neither Mr. Bjolverud or his friend were wearing life jackets when their canoe capsized. Mr. Simpson said there is an important lesson to be learned from this tragic accident.

I think this just really highlights the importance of making use of the life jackets while boating, Mr. Simpson said. Things can go sideways in a matter of seconds.

In addition, Mr. Simpson said alcohol was a major contributing factor for what occurred. The Coroners Service has yet to complete an autopsy.

Carol Henke, a public information officer for the Calgary Fire Department, said the news of Mr. Bjolveruds death has been hard to come to grips with for the whole department.

This is very devastating for the whole fire department family, Ms. Henke said. He absolutely loved the job, loved being a firefighter, and was extremely committed and enthusiastic.

City councillors in Calgary paid tribute to Mr. Bjolverud with a moment of silence prior to the regular council meeting on June 30th.

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