Sun sets on a tragic summer on Lake Diefenbaker

By Joel van der Veen

ELBOW — Peace pervades Lake Diefenbaker on a late September evening.

Few are out on the water, though a sharp eye can spot the odd boat far in the distance.

A lone paddleboarder makes his way across the horizon. From this vantage point, he is just a silhouette on the brilliant light painting that fills the sky — wispy, orange-tinted clouds against a pale blue backdrop.

The lake is calm and serene, almost deceptively so.

A sudden storm can catch boaters by surprise, and sometimes with fatal consequences.

The sun has set on another summer on Lake Diefenbaker — the deadliest one in recent memory.

Between late July and early September, four people drowned on the lake in three separate incidents.

Of those people, two lived in Loreburn and one was a Saskatoon resident. The fourth was an adult male whose place of residence was not made public.

Only one of the deceased — Ken Houben, 61, of Loreburn — was identified publicly.

After years without a drowning on the lake, local officials say this year’s death toll took them and other residents by surprise.

“We’ve never experienced a summer like this,” said Elbow mayor Rob Hundeby, a lifelong resident of the village. “Obviously, the (village) grieves with them . . . It’s a devastating loss.”

Cpl. Doug Gardiner, commanding officer for the Elbow RCMP detachment, acknowledged that the year had been “extremely unusual.”

Gardiner said he has worked in the region for five-and-a-half years. During that time, he said, there had been no drownings reported on the lake until this summer.

The corporal said he could not comment on the individual incidents as they remained under investigation.

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