The Aug. 15, 1933 newspaper covered the story; Three city children drown in river. “Young girls die trying to save 6-year old boy. Janet Derkson, 14, Rita Hope, 10 and brother Jimmy, lose lives at Sutherland Beach; Raymond Gracewood attempts rescue.” The three children three children from two families were residents who lived in the old University Heights area (south of the CPR, in what is now Innovation Place) according to Jeff O’Brien at City archives.
The children were very used to the route, having walked on the shore trails with the father of Reta and Jimmy Hope quite often. At this time, the youth went out on their own, and went into the river water at a different location. The youngest, Jimmy was caught up in a pothole from which he could not get out. His sister, Reta went to his rescue, and was also trapped. Hearing their calls, Raymond Gracewood swam out and grabbed hold of both children. Jimmy and Reta spied Janet Derkson, also coming to help them out, and pulled away from Raymond’s grasp to reach out to Janet. Though Janet tried her best to swim out to them, she sank. This happened during the summer months, Janet Derkson was to start grade 6 that fall, Reta Hope to begin grade 5, her little brother was to start school in September.
Though all the children were originally buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in an unmarked pauper’s grave. There was a huge public outcry, upon which the city donated a regular plot and the Rotary Club purchased a headstone. The family held a vigil a few years ago, and re-dedicated the memorial.
In June of 2001, another tragedy took the life of a six year old boy who fell into the cold spring waters off the Victoria Park river dock. June 2016, saw two eight year old boys narrowly escape tragedy. The mother of one of the lads, jumped in to his rescue, and downstream, a fisherman, swam out to the rescue of the other carried away by the river.
Traveling to this year, the Saskatoon Services Fire Department were called out 13 times for rescues at the South Saskatchewan River, impressing the need to be careful around the river in both winter and summer seasons.
Though the fatalities mentioned here were children, the majority of drownings in Saskatchewan were aged 20-24 and those between 70-74. 13% of our young adult population aged 20-24 have fallen to tragic ends drowning, which works out to about 3.5 young adults out of 100,000. Water bodies such as lakes, rivers and streams take the largest numbers of victims. Young children loose their lives most commonly in pools, and bathtubs. Though lives are lost all year around, most drownings occur June July and August partaking in swimming, fishing, water activities, boating or snowmobiling.
Bylaw No. 4433 is a “bylaw of The City of Saskatoon to prohibit swimming in the South Saskatchewan River and to require water skiers to wear life jackets.” The South Saskatchewan River is subject to a strong current, fluctuating water levels, and shifting sand bars. Though there is no bylaw against wading the shallow waters of the shoreline, it is very important to be aware the river is cut by deep, fast flowing channels. These channels can readily be seen only from the high river banks with a clear sight to the river waters. Therefore, wading in the river and getting into deep waters, the same dangers will be present as for swimmers. Sandbars, provide a false sense of security, as the swiftly flowing waters can create unstable shoreline edges of the sandbar creating risk.
An ambulance paramedic stated that, “The banks become very unstable when we have lots of water moving through. All you need is for that undercurrent to grab hold of the bank, and …down your’e going to go, into the river…and that may not be a very pleasant situation for anybody.”
Whenever you, your family, your pet are taking in the water, take care, and be cautious of the South Saskatchewan River. Saskatchewan, the provincial title honours the Cree word kisiskâciwan, describing the “fast-flowing” Saskatchewan River or the “Swift Current” of the river. Around wetlands, or any depth of water, be cautious.
“When the trees go, the rain goes, the climate deteriorates, the water table sinks, the land erodes and desert conditions soon appear”.~Richard St. Barbe Baker
6 year old boy drowns while playing near river. Cobalt daily Nugget. June 4, 2001.
Hill, Andrea. Saskatchewan father drowns after saving 10-year-old son from sinking truck. National Post. July 15, 2014.
Saskatoon police say no crackdown on swimming in river. Swimming the South Saskatchewan is dangerous, officials say. CBC news June 9, 2015.
South Saskatchewan River Jordon Cooper.
They recognize that while knowledge about nature is vital; passion is the long-distance fuel for the struggle to save what is left of our natural heritage and ~ through an emerging green urbanism ~ to reconstitute lost land and water. Passion does not arrive on videotape or on a CD; passion is personal. Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature. Louv. 2005. p. 158
For more information:
Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area is located in Saskatoon, SK, CA north of Cedar Villa Road, within city limits, in the furthest south west area of the city.
Wikimapia Map: type in Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area
Google Maps South West Off Leash area location pin at parking lot
Web page: https://stbarbebaker.wordpress.com
If you wish to support the afforestation area with your donation, write a cheque please to the “Meewasin Valley Authority Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area trust fund” (MVA RSBBAA trust fund) and mail it to Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area c/o Meewasin Valley Authority, 402 Third Ave S, Saskatoon SK S7K 3G5. Thank you kindly!
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