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59 drown in waterways since start of December

59 drown in waterways since start of December
January 24, 2016

Figures released by Royal Life Saving Society – Australia at the end of last week show that 59 people have been the victims of fatal drowning since the start of December in waterways around the country - a 16% increase on the 51 drowning deaths recorded for the same period last year.

And with Australia Day approaching and every drowning preventable, Royal Life Saving is urging all Australians to be safe when enjoying the water.

Royal Life Saving is also aware of a further 66 non-fatal drownings that have occurred across the country since the start of summer. One quarter (26%) of these were children under 10, with children under five in home pools the most common at risk group among non-fatal drowning statistics.

Royal Life Saving Society - Australia Chief Executive Justin Scarr states “although summer is traditionally the season with the highest number of drowning deaths, Royal Life Saving is very concerned at the high number of drowning deaths since the start of December.

“Tragically, there have been 10 drowning deaths on the public holidays to date and we don’t want to see any further drowning deaths this Summer.

"We urge everyone celebrating this Australia Day to look after each other and help us prevent any further drowning deaths this summer.”

Between 1st December 2015 and 18th January 2016 (inclusive), Royal Life Saving has recorded 59 drowning deaths.

For the previous summer period there were 51 drowning deaths between 1st December 2014 and 19th January 2015 inclusive.

Men are most at risk, with 80% of all drowning deaths recorded across summer to date being males, reflecting national annual trends that find men drown at four times the rate of women.

As Scarr states “men need to stop taking unnecessary risks when swimming, fishing or boating this Australia Day and for the rest of the Summer period.

“Don’t go swimming if you’ve been drinking, wear lifejackets when boating or rock fishing and look after each other when you’re around the water.”

Inland waterways claimed the largest number of lives over the summer period, with 20 (34%) drowning deaths to date, compared to 18 (31%) at beaches and 12 (20%) in ocean/harbour locations.

Commenting on the toll among children, Scarr adds “children drown quickly and silently, it is important that children are actively supervised within arms’ reach at all times.

“Ensure the home swimming pool is fenced with a correctly installed and regularly maintained pool fence with a self-closing and self-latching gate.”

Supervision of young children is also key at BBQs and social gatherings over this long weekend.

Scarr concludes “parents and carers of young children should always KEEP WATCH, ensure there is a designated adult supervisor watching at all times and to ensure the person supervising has not been drinking alcohol.”

Royal Life Saving also highlight that people heading to unfamiliar aquatic locations on Australia Day should be sure to observe warning signs and be aware of the conditions before entering the water.

Never swim alone and if you are visiting the beach ensure you swim at patrolled beaches between the red and yellow flags.

Members of the community who want more information on water safety and drowning prevention strategies should go to

Aquatic fun on the River Murray.

Royal Life Saving Summer Drowning Toll – Key Findings

• 59 people have drowned in Australian waterways between 1st December 2015 and 18th January 2016 (inclusive). This year’s data shows a 16% increase on the same period last year. 
• Last Summer, across the same period, there were 51 drowning deaths between 1st December 2014 to 19th January 2015 (inclusive).
• 10 drowning deaths in 2015/16 have occurred on public holidays. 
• There have been a further 66 non-fatal drownings nationally across the same period. 

Royal Life Saving’s Summer Drowning Prevention Tips

• Always actively supervise children around water. For more information visit 
• Rivers are the leading location for drowning every year in Australia. Learn about the risks and safety tips at 
• Ensure swimming pools are fenced with a correctly installed and regularly maintained pool fence with a self-closing and self-latching gate
• Never swim alone or undertake any form of aquatic activity under the influence of drugs or alcohol
• When boating, always wear a PFD, check weather conditions before setting off and tell someone where you are going and when you are due back
• Always swim at patrolled beaches between the red and yellow flags 

Summer Fatal Drowning Toll 2015/16 – Top three Age Groups

• 25-34 years - 10 drowning deaths (17%)
• 35-44 years – Nine drowning deaths (15%)
• 45-54 years – Eight drowning deaths (14%)

Summer Fatal Drowning Toll 2015/16 – Top three Activities Prior to Drowning

• Swimming and Recreating – 17 drowning deaths (29%)
• Watercraft Incidents – 12 drowning deaths (20%)
• Falls into water – Six drowning deaths (10%)






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