TIMELY WARNING: The number of coastal drownings has doubled over the past year with lifesavers pleading with surfers to swim at patrolled beaches.
TIMELY WARNING: The number of coastal drownings has doubled over the past year with lifesavers pleading with surfers to swim at patrolled beaches. Marc Stapelberg

Concern over drownings

THE number of coastal drownings in the Northern Rivers doubled in 2011-12 to eight, in line with a Statewide trend, Surf Life Saving NSW has revealed.

In 2011-12, there were 47 confirmed coastal drowning deaths across the state, up from the 2010-11 figure of 22, and well above the eight-year average of 37.

The most common causes of coastal drownings across the state are people swimming/being caught in rip currents and rock fishing accidents.

Almost 80% of drownings were within five kilometres of surf lifesaving facilities highlighting the need to always swim at patrolled locations, during patrolled times.

The overwhelming majority or 89% of victims were male.

In tourism hot-spots like Byron, Ballina, Manly and Bondi, overseas visitors lack of knowledge of the ocean also tended to be a major factor in the statistics.

NSW Lifesaving manager, Dean Storey, said the increasing coastal drowning trend was a significant concern to the organisation which was "working tirelessly" to save more lives on the coast.

"We have more people and more assets than ever before patrolling longer and further, we are investing heavily in new technology, public education campaigns and safety awareness initiatives, however we are seeing the drowning toll continue to rise," Mr Storey said.

He said the support of the whole community was required to bring about change.

"Most fatalities are occurring due to swimming at unpatrolled locations or times or rock-fishing without a lifejacket.

"With a small amount of planning and effort these tragedies could be avoided.



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