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Increase in summer drownings prompts plea from Surf Life Saving Australia

Increase in summer drownings prompts plea from Surf Life Saving Australia
March 15, 2021

Surf Life Saving Australia has advised that it is again “pleading” with people visiting the Australian coastline to think about safety after statistics show a deadly increase in summer drownings and fatalities on our coastline.

One of the deadliest summers on record has seen 70 people lose their lives on the Australian coastline - an 11% increase on the 10-year average and a 9% increase from summer 2019/20.

With three quarters of all drowning deaths occurring greater than 1 kilometre from a surf lifesaving service, SLSA General Manager Coastal Safety, Shane Daw ESM said the message is clear, people need to swim at patrolled beaches where possible.

Daw advised “what we have seen occur on our beaches and along our coastline this Summer is devastating and very alarming.

“The highest number of summer drowning deaths were related to swimming and wading, but there has been a significant increase in drowning deaths of rock fishers and bystanders attempting to rescue someone else. There were five bystander rescue drowning deaths recorded this Summer, which alarmingly is just above the average number for a whole year.

“Rip currents were a dominant factor for all (100%) fatal summer bystander rescues and half (51%) of summer swimming and wading drowning deaths.”

Fatal bystander rescues accounted for 10% of summer drowning deaths but, alarmingly increased by 240% above the 10-year average, while rock fishing deaths accounted for 12% of drowning deaths, representing an 83% increase from the 10-year average.

Daw added “we have also seen a dramatic rise in the amount of summer drowning deaths at rock and cliff locations, largely linked to the increase observed in rock fishing drowning deaths

“It is paramount that if you are going rock fishing to check conditions, know your limits and most importantly wear a lifejacket, in almost all instances of a rock fishing drowning the victim was not wearing a lifejacket, while many were fishing in notoriously dangerous spots.”

Almost half of summer drowning deaths (46%) involved intrastate visitors who lived more than 50 kilometres from the drowning location but remained in their home state. While this needs further investigation, it potentially reflects on impacts from COVID-19 with travel restrictions resulting in people visiting unfamiliar locations.

Statistics for summer:

Statistics for summer:
• 70 people died on the Australian coast this summer
• 49 were due to drowning
• 88% of fatalities were male
• Rip currents were linked to 100% summer bystander rescue drowning deaths
• 1 in 2 swimming and wading summer drowning deaths were linked to rip currents
• 46% summer drowning deaths were intrastate visitors who lived more than 50 kilometre from the drowning location

Safety tips:
• Swim at a patrolled beach between the flags - this way you will have surf lifesavers or lifeguards on hand to assist if you get into trouble
• Supervise children on, in and around water at all times - this may assist in preventing them getting into difficulty in the first place.
• For young children stay within arm’s reach.
• Wear a lifejacket if you are going rock fishing, fishing, boating or on and around water
• Avoid alcohol and drugs while undertaking water activities

Image courtesy of Surf Life Saving Queensland.

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22nd December 2020 - Lifeguard Bruce Hopkins recognised at World Leader Summit

18th December 2020 - Wollongong welcomes new lifeguard recruits

17th December 2020 - Surf Life Saving Australia highlight the dangers of rip currents along Australia’s coast

23rd November 2020 - Royal Life Saving’s latest Keep Watch campaign highlights tragic drowning toll among children aged under 12 months

22nd October 2020 - New Lifeguard pods could help save lives on beaches this summer

30th September 2020 - CQU researcher seeks input with study into drowning prevention strategies

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5th December 2019 - AUSTSWIM receives funding boost to combat multicultural drownings

15th December 2017 - Leading professional lifeguard says swim between flags message is ‘desirable but unrealistic’

27th December 2015 - Professional Lifeguards highlight need for safety first at the beach

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