Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com

GRAVENHURST — A mother’s frantic rescue of her drowning child may have led to the drowning death of a 37-year-old Brampton man at Muskoka Beach late Saturday afternoon.

Panic ensued about 4:30 p.m. when the little girl, about three years old, was reportedly seen in the water outside the swimming buoy line, say witnesses.

Beachgoers at the popular swimming site on Lake Muskoka near the Taboo resort, raced into the shallow water to assist the mother and child who police say were playing with small inflatable toys.

The male victim, who police have yet to identify, also went to help.

The mother and child were pulled to shore.

But somehow, the man lost his balance and went under the water.

And it’s possible with all the confusion his disappearance may have momentarily gone unnoticed until it was too late.

Within minutes a massive search was underway for him, as police, firefighters and paramedics rushed to the beach, down the small embankment and into the water.

Paramedics, police, firefighters and volunteers scanned the water for two hours looking for the male victim. (CTV News Barrie photo)

Police officers quickly waded into the water in their uniforms, said neighbour Jim Lynch who lives at the mouth of the Hoc Roc River and has seen this same scene unfold too many times — at least once each of the past two summers.

Emergency personnel, including police air and marine support services, and everyone swimming at the beach began searching the water along the more than 50-metre stretch of beach and beyond. Boaters emerged from nowhere to assist and watch.

The water in the area is about a metre deep stretching well out into the lake for at least 30 metres from shore.

Just more than two hours following the panicked 911 emergency call — and after the mother and child were transported to hospital where they later recovered — police divers found the male victim’s body not far off the beach, said Lynch, away from the river mouth.

Police won’t confirm drowning as the cause of the death until an autopsy is complete.

Muskoka Beach is popular with visitors who like the shallowness of its water and who were also able to climb on the rocks Tuesday night at the mouth of the Hoc Roc River, near where the apparent drowning took place.

The beach has been the scene of at least two other recent deaths in as many years.

In late July 2017, Shahid Iqbal, 28, of Woodbridge, died in a drowning accident.

And a young girl drowned there last summer.

This spring a portion of the retaining wall gave way to flooding damage, and has and continues to undergo repairs around the centre steps leading into the water.

Local swimmers at the beach Tuesday night said they were saddened by the latest drowning and said they don’t understand it — even as a family could be seen at the beach nearby standing on a rock swinging a child out over the water.

A group of teens wondered why if the beachgoers couldn’t swim, why they weren’t wearing personal flotation devices (PFDs) or lifejackets.

A bright orange life ring and small rope are prominently hung on a pole on the beach, with a sign reminding swimmers that there is no life guard at the Town of Gravenhurst public beach.

Another middle-aged man in for an evening swim, said he has been swimming at the beach since he was two years old.

He said he was swimming there earlier Saturday and it was a windy day that created small whitecap crests of water on the surface.

Others who live in the area wonder why the sandy beach is located so close to the Hoc Roc River, which has a small part that acts like a vacuum and can suck weak swimmers into its rotating vortex. They wonder if it’s not time to move the beach southward, away from the river mouth, in light of all the deaths.

The accident happened a day before another Brampton man, Raupesh Narula, 25, drowned July 1, at Beach One in Wasaga Beach, at 7:45 p.m.

A swimming area is squared off with blue and white buoys marking the area where you can swim, next to the Hoc Roc River on the right. In the distance is the Taboo resort.

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