Aussies reminded about water safety as drowning numbers spike over summer

Aussies are being urged to remain safe when swimming as authorities warn the days leading up to New Year’s Eve are some of the most deadliest in the water.

From Christmas Eve to December 28, there have been 18 drowning deaths in Australia, while 31 deaths have been recorded since December 1 around the country.

As of December 27, the Royal Life Saving Summer Drowning Toll reported there were 21 drowning deaths compared with 19 at this time last year.

Data from Royal Life Saving Australia found that since December 1, seven deaths occurred while recreational swimming.

“The days between Christmas and New Year’s Day are often the deadliest period for drowning,” Royal Life Saving chief executive Justin Scarr said.

“Whether you are holidaying, day tripping, choosing a safe location to swim where lifeguards are on duty is essential.

“Rivers, lakes, and unpatrolled beaches can be incredibly dangerous, especially for people with poor swimming skills.”

Ninety people drowned last summer, with 25 per cent of drowning deaths occurring between Christmas and New Year.

Mr Scarr said people should prepare and brush up on safety precautions, especially in unfamiliar locations.

He also urged parents to keep constantly watching their children when in and around water and avoid distractions like social media.

“Parents are urged to actively supervise children at all times if you are near water, whether swimming in a backyard pool or at a dam, river, beach or lake,” Mr Scarr said.

“Many rivers, lakes and dams have more water than in previous years and with lots of water moving downstream, especially after flooding.

“It’s important not to let children play or swim in floodwater.”

Three people have drowned in floodwater in Queensland since Christmas, including nine-year-old Mia Holland-McCormack.

The young girl had jumped over the back fence of her family’s property in Rochedale South and was killed when she was swept into a drain by floodwaters in Brisbane on Boxing Day.

Further north near Gympie, Tanya Hehir, 46, was on a running trail with two friends, aged 40 and 46, when they were swept into the Mary River after stopping to explore a popular stormwater drain known as the “Love Tunnel” about 2.30pm on Tuesday.

As they were exploring, a wild storm cell hit the region and dropped 18mm of rain in less than 20 minutes.

The other 46-year-old woman suffered moderate head injuries but was able to reach the bank of the river and call for help.

Rescue crews desperately searched up to 5km for the missing women along the river, finding the 40-year-old’s body about 7.10pm on Tuesday near the entrance to the drain.

Ms Hehir’s body was found about noon on Wednesday near Gympie Weir.

Other things to consider

Mr Scarr said adults should also try to avoid drinking alcohol around the water, especially around inland waterways, including lakes and rivers, while camping or fishing.

“Alcohol was a factor in more than a quarter of drowning deaths last summer, so we’re asking everyone to stay off the beers until fishing, boating or swimming has finished,” he said.

“Make the right call around water and look after your mates.”

Queensland beaches attracted 496,979 visitors over the weekend prior to Christmas.

Surf Life Saving Queensland said its lifesavers performed 14,236 preventive actions, 116 rescues and administered 1011 first aid treatments during that period.

High temperatures across the country will also mean many people are going to be swimming, making water safety critical over the coming week.

Top five tips to enjoy the water safely this summer:

  • Always supervise children around water
  • Avoid alcohol around water
  • Wear a lifejacket when boating and fishing
  • Know the conditions
  • Avoid going alone

Spike in drownings across the country

There’s been six drownings since Christmas Day in NSW, including a toddler who was pulled from a swimming pool near Lismore on the state’s north coast on Wednesday.

The body of Seti Tuaopepe was also found at Penrith Beach on Boxing Day after the 35-year-old man drowned.

He went missing while paddleboarding with his children about 2.35pm on Tuesday and was reportedly holding them while waiting for help from another rescuer.

Mr Tuaopepe’s children survived, but his body was found about 6.15pm.

Canadian tourist Ron Brean, 79, died in the surf at Umina Beach on the Central Coast on Monday.

Two others have gone missing in waters off the NSW coast since Christmas Day in separate incidents and are both presumed to have drowned.

Meanwhile, the search for Sydney man Khattab Abu Haish, 19, was also suspended after he went missing in surf off Congo Beach on the south coast on Boxing Day.

Five deaths were also recorded after boating incidents, including the three men who died on Boxing Day after their boat capsized near Green Island in Moreton Bay on Tuesday.

Brisbane Rugby identity David “Mario” Logan, schoolteacher Stephen “Taity” Tait and Alexandra Hills man Robert Holden, 48, were killed during the outing.

The boat was carrying 11 people when it came into difficulty and overturned in the water.

NSW Premier Chris Minns offered his sincere condolences to the families who have lost loved ones in these drowning tragedies.

“Every waterway in our state has very different conditions – all with their own levels of risk,” he said.

“Swimmers must not over-estimate their abilities or ignore the hidden dangers lurking in the water.

“It’s not worth it, so please be vigilant and swim between the flags.”

Leave a Comment