Northern NSW Lifeguard co-ordinator Scott McCartney at the location on South Ballina Beach where Carole and Joseph Sherry drowned on Tuesday.
Northern NSW Lifeguard co-ordinator Scott McCartney at the location on South Ballina Beach where Carole and Joseph Sherry drowned on Tuesday. Jay Cronan

Beach safety message getting out

THE safety message to swim at patrolled beaches between the flags is getting out, despite the drowning deaths of an Orangeville couple at South Ballina Beach on Tuesday evening.

Australian Lifeguard Service Northern Region co-ordinator, Scott McCartney, said the level of awareness of beach safety, particularly among tourists, was increasing but that more resources would always be appreciated.

“I think that we are getting the message out beyond the locals,” he said.

“We’ve got ads on TV, and we go out to workshops called ‘From the beach to the bush’ to schools out west.

“We could always do with more, but the councils are doing the best they can, and are working well with the Australian Lifeguard Service.”

The ALS also hands out brochures to tourist operators to inform visitors.

Mr McCartney said more signs warning of potential dangers on the beach would be welcomed, particularly at unpatrolled beaches.

Signage in alternative languages could also be appropriate, he said.

The lack of warning signs on South Ballina Beach has been raised following the deaths of Carole and Joseph Sherry on Tuesday.

Mrs Sherry drowned after rescuing her two youngest child-ren from the surf, and Mr Sherry drowned trying to save his wife.

The three Sherry children watched the tragedy unfold from the beach and alerted emergency services.

A beach poll conducted by The Northern Star at Byron Bay’s Main Beach yesterday confirmed Mr McCartney’s belief that the message was getting out, even if some preferred not to swim between the flags.

Byron locals Jesse McEwen and Daniel Franzen, both 20, said they would always swim between the flags if they were erected on the beach.

“It’s just the sensible thing to do,” Mr McEwen said.

Megan Bures, of Bribie Island in Queensland, and her son Cohen, 12, had been also swimming in the patrolled areas.

“We always swim there when we’re at an unfamiliar beach,” she said.

Five young Israeli women, on holiday from Jerusalem, said they had begun swimming between the flags, but had been carried out of the zone by the current.

They said they kept returning to the flags. Of the flag system, they said: “We know it from Israel, from swimming at the beaches of Tel Aviv.”

However, John Brouillette, who has been here for a year from his native Canada, said he usually avoided Main Beach and flag areas because of the crowds, and that Belongil and The Pass were nicer beaches at which to swim or body surf.

Besides, he said, he was a strong swimmer and thought the flags advisory only really applied to weaker swimmers.

Tasko Georvski and family, Sonia, Matthew, 8, and Benji, 5, on holiday from Sydney, said the flagged area was ‘too crowded’.

“We both always keep our eyes on the kids. We would normally swim between the flags, but the kids have their boards and needed a bit more space,” Sonia said.




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