River drowning death: Warning issued by Royal Life Saving Australia | Graph

SCENE OF TRAGEDY: The Colo River, where a 32-year-old man died on Sunday morning. Photo: NICK MOIR 120318colo
SCENE OF TRAGEDY: The Colo River, where a 32-year-old man died on Sunday morning. Photo: NICK MOIR 120318colo

A TRAGIC drowning in a river just two days into summer has prompted a plea for Central West residents to take proper precautions when near the water.

Of the 249 people who died by drowning during the past financial year, 25 per cent of these occurred at inland waterways far away from the coast.

The Royal Life Saving Australia (RLSA) warning comes following a drowning on Sunday where a 32-year-old man was pulled face-down and unconscious from the water in the Colo River on Sydney’s outskirts.

This was followed by the near-drownings of a seven-year-old girl and five-year-old boy at a lagoon in Sydney’s Northern Beaches later that same day.

RLSA national communication executive executive Lucy Rae said many people think rivers, creeks and streams are a safer aquatic environment to be in or around.

Of all the adult males who drowned, 56 per cent had a contributing amount of drugs or alcohol in their systems.

Royal Life Saving Australia national communication executive Lucy Rae

“People underestimate the risks in inland waterways, they seem calm and quiet,” she said

“There’s snags, branches and rocks where people can come into trouble.”

Ms Rae said that drugs and alcohol played a large part in the number of river/creek/stream drowning deaths, particularly in males.

River, creek and stream safety message from Royal Life Saving Australia.

River, creek and stream safety message from Royal Life Saving Australia.

“Of all the adult males who drowned, 56 per cent had a contributing amount of drugs or alcohol in their systems,” she said.

RLSA data shows that of the 61 drownings in inland waterways, the 25-34 years age group recorded the largest number of deaths, with 12 fatalities.

In 28 per cent of all river/creek/stream drowning cases the activity prior to drowning was unknown, which Ms Rae said indicates that the person was alone when they drowned and the activity prior to drowning was not witnessed.​

Ms Rae said most inland waterways are not patrolled by lifeguards.

“Help may not be present or it could be located far away,” she said.

Ms Rae encouraged people to keep up-to-date on the first aid and CPR skills and to always wear a lifejacket when boating or on a waterway.

Key river/creek/stream drowning facts

In Australian rivers, creeks and streams between July 1, 2003 and June 30, 2018:

  • 1087 people have lost their lives drowning
  • 552 people are estimated to have had a non-fatal drowning resulting in hospitalisation
  • Males accounted for 80 per cent of all drowning deaths (875 fatalities)
  • A contributory level of alcohol and/or drugs were present in 56 per cent of drowning deaths of adult males in rivers.
  • 20 per cent of drowning deaths were due to falls into water
  • The activity prior to death was unknown in 18% of cases indicating the victim was alone
  • 74 per cent of people who lost their lives were considered locals to the area

Inland waterways – safety risks

  • Currents and fast-flowing water
  • Submerged objects such as rocks, and tree branches
  • Slippery banks and uneven surfaces
  • Changing seasonal patterns and floodwater
  • Cold water – water temperatures in rivers, lakes and dams can drop to freezing levels in winter and cause cold water shock if you fall in
  • Inland waterways are not patrolled by lifeguards, and should someone get into trouble, there may be no one there to assist.

River, creek and streams – safety tips

  • Never swim alone
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol around water
  • Wear a lifejacket
  • Check the current by throwing a leaf into the water to see the speed it travels
  • If you are caught in a current, float on your back feet first, and go with the current. Don’t panic
  • Check the depth of the water and look for submerged objects by using a stick
  • Don’t jump or dive into the water
  • Enter water slowly and feet first
  • Take care of slippery or uneven surfaces around or in the water
  • Actively supervise children around water
  • Let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back
  • When on a large property, create a “child safe area” to isolate children from water sources
  • Take a phone with you
  • Learn lifesaving skills