Surge in summer drownings

WATER PERILS: Rivers and inland waterways were the leading cause of drownings in Australia this summer. Lifesavers have issued a plea to central Victorians ahead of Australia Day as they released figures which show a dramatic 16 per cent increase in drownings this summer –with the largest number of deaths occurring in inland waterways.

Royal Life Saving Societyresearch andpolicy national managerAmy Peden said that 34 per centof the 59 drownings across the country from the start of December to January 18occurred in rivers and dams.

It was a figure which she said would surprise many.

“But people have come to recognise the dangers of swimming at the beach and the risks involved –they do things like swim between the flags to stay safe,” she said.

“In ariver, there won’t besafe, designated places to swim andit can look deceptively calm.

“So the mix of alcohol, currents and submerged objects can be deadly.”

Eleven people drowned this summerin Victoria andthe majority of them –73 per cent –were men.

Across the state, 27 per cent of the drownings occurred inland.The same amount occurred at sea, which included snorkelling, scuba diving and boating accidents.

The beach accounted for 36 per cent and public swimming pools 9 per cent of the state’s drownings.

“Theleading activity prior to drowningin Victoria was swimming and recreating –sopeople were already in the water when something went wrong,” MsPeden said.

“These are preliminary figures, so there is not yet information onalcohol or tourists, but as general rulealcohol normally accounts for 30 to 40 per cent of drownings.

“We know Australia Day is acelebratory day, we know it is likely to be a hot day and that people will be wanting to get in the water.

“Butwe’re asking people to do their aquatic activities first – then have a drink.”

Swimming and recreating was the prior activity in45 per cent of Victoria’s drowning this summer. Operating a non-aquatic vehicle, such as a car or a tractor, was the prior activity in 18 per cent of drownings, while diving accidents also accounted for 18 per cent.

Royal Life Saving’s CEO Justin Scarr said10 of this summer’sdrownings across the countryoccurred on public holidays.

“We traditionally see a spike in drownings across the warmer months and the holiday period,” he said.

“Tragically, so far this summer we have seen 59 drowning deaths, including 10 on public holidays.

“We urge everyone celebrating this Australia Day to take care, avoid unnecessary risks and be safe around the water.”

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