• Sun. Jun 4th, 2023

New South Wales: Top lifeguard’s warning as drowning numbers rise

ByGurinderbir Singh

Feb 14, 2023

NSW is experiencing one of its most deadly summers ever, with over 20 people so far losing their lives in the water.

Coastal drownings are rising in NSW, leaving local lifesavers increasingly concerned.

Surf Life Saving NSW chief executive Steven Pearce said the state has experienced seven drownings in the past week.

“We’ve had 23 coastal drownings between December 1 and Tuesday and we’ve had seven drownings in the last six days, a number we haven’t seen in many, many years,” Mr Pearce told NCA NewsWire.

“We’ve had nine drownings this month alone, more than at this time in 2022, in which had the highest number of summer drownings in NSW history. We’re now moving into an area where we will be setting, tragically, the highest amount of coastal drownings in the state’s history over summer.”

The state’s most recent incident occurred on Monday night, as passers-by pulled a man from the water in Kiama.

Witnesses performed CPR on the man, believed to be aged in his 60s, before he was pronounced dead at the scene.

He is yet to be formally identified.

Mr Pearce said warmer weather, along with the removal of Covid-19 restrictions have seen visitation numbers skyrocket across NSW beaches.

Mr Pearce said SLS NSW has a frontline of 2100 patrolling lifesavers and 45 professional lifeguards, but that other measures need to be in place to keep watch over the state’s unpatrolled beaches.

“Unfortunately, people are going to unpatrolled locations and we don’t have our lifesavers at those locations,” he said.

He urged those heading to the beach in the coming weeks to go to a location which is patrolled with lifesavers and lifeguards on duty.

“If people are wanting to swim at an unpatrolled location, they need to have a plan if they get into trouble or if they see someone that’s in trouble,” he said.

“The reason I say that is, out of the 23 drownings, five have been what we call bystander rescue drownings – people who have seen someone in trouble and have gone into the water to try to save them and have drowned themselves.

“If you do see someone struggling in the water and you do make that decision that you’re going to go in to try to rescue them, you have to do two things: you’re going to ring triple-0 immediately so we can get nearby lifesavers and lifeguards to respond to that area.

“Secondly, you have to take something into the water that floats. You have to take anything that can hold you and the other person up until we can get our lifesavers or lifeguards around.”

There are around 200 drones across 50 locations in NSW which are designed to spot sharks near swimmers, but the technology also allows operators to recognise swimmers who could be in trouble.

“They occasionally come across swimmers in distress,” Mr Pearce said. “We can just radio back to the nearest lifesavers and lifeguards who can respond to them.

“All the drones we fly are fitted with speakers as well, so the pilots can actually hover the drone over the top of the swimmer and will talk to the person if they think they’re in distress or if they think they’re heading towards a rip or if they see a marine crash.”

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