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Sharks, Big Crowds and Rescues keep Surf Lifesavers Busy

Surf lifesavers were flat-out across the October long weekend with high temperatures bringing huge crowds to most NSW beaches. Despite Christmas holiday like numbers on the beach and a significant number of rescues along the NSW coastline, there were no drownings thanks to the efforts of volunteer surf lifesavers and lifeguards along the coast. ​

Over 2,000 volunteer surf lifesavers performed a total 117 rescues at beaches across NSW over the long weekend. A total of 15 ambulances were called to provide treatment and transportation for people with serious injuries.

There were a number of significant near-drowning incidents outside the flags which has served to remind beachgoers about the dangers of swimming at unpatrolled locations. Several people were hospitalised in separate incidents after they were pulled from the water by members of the public and later treated by surf lifesavers and paramedics.

In one near-drowning incident, a six-year-old boy was transferred by the CareFlight helicopter from The Entrance to Westmead Children’s Hospital after being pulled unconscious and not breathing from the water. The boy was resuscitated by members of the public and provided with oxygen therapy by surf lifesavers who arrived at the scene a short time later.

In a separate incident, a man was pulled unconscious from the water by fishermen at Birubi Beach near Newcastle after getting into difficulty attempting a rescue himself. The man was treated by surf lifesavers at the scene and later transported to hospital by NSW Ambulance.

There were a significant number of shark sightings at NSW beaches over the weekend. Seventeen beaches were closed as a result of UAV (drone) surveillance operations spotting potentially dangerous shark species near patrolled beach locations. Salt, Casuarina, Cabarita, Hastings, North Pottsville and South Pottsville remain closed today due to a number of sightings of large white sharks attracted to the area by a dead whale carcass.

Large crowds at some Sydney beaches meant that authorities were forced to close them to control numbers on the sand – in line with COVID-19 public health orders. At one stage, North Cronulla beach was closed as were some of the beaches in the Royal National Park south of Sydney – including Wattamolla and Garie beaches. For the most part, however, beachgoers across the state respected social distancing orders and most beaches remained open across the weekend.

The Beachsafe app and website were once again the ‘go-to’ information source for beachgoers wanting to find out about beach conditions and closures across NSW. The Beachsafe app was updated over 300 times by surf lifesavers over the weekend with new information about beach attendance as crowds built throughout the day on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Joel Wiseman, Director of Lifesaving at Surf Life Saving NSW, said that he was extremely proud of the efforts of volunteer surf lifesavers and lifeguards who worked tirelessly across a very busy long weekend to prevent serious coastal incidents.

“Thanks to the efforts of our surf lifesavers and lifeguards, there were no coastal drownings across one of the busiest October long weekends we’ve seen,” Joel Wiseman said.

“Thankfully, most beachgoers heeded the advice of lifesavers and swam at patrolled locations, between the red and yellow flags. However, there were a number of serious near-drowning incidents, at unpatrolled locations, that serve as a timely reminder about the dangers of swimming outside the flags,” he said.

“We can’t stress enough the importance of always swimming at patrolled locations, wearing a lifejacket if rock fishing or boating and calling Triple-Zero (000) immediately if you see anyone experiencing difficulty in the water,” Joel Wiseman concluded.

Last year (2019) there were 49 coastal and ocean drowning deaths in NSW which is well above the 16-year average of 42. Since 1 July 2020 there have been 10 coastal and ocean drowning deaths in NSW.

  • BEACH SAFETY TIPS
  • Always swim between the red and yellow patrol flags, for your nearest patrolled beach check the Beachsafe app or website
  • Read the safety signs for information about the beach and ask a lifesaver or lifeguard for safety information
  • Always swim with someone else so you can look out for each other, and always supervise children around the water
  • Never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • If you need help in the water, stay calm and attract attention by raising one arm
  • In an emergency, dial Triple Zero Police
  • For information about patrol times, weather, and beach locations visit the Beachsafe Website or Download the App.

Source: Surf Life Saving New South Wales

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