January beach drownings near 2014 total

Posted by SLSNZ Media on Friday, January 30, 2015

There have been eight drownings at beaches so far this January - just under the total number of beach drownings for all of 2014 (11 deaths).

And with 18 drownings overall so far this month - up from ten at the same time last year - water safety leaders are concerned.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand CEO Paul Dalton says there have been eight drownings at unpatrolled beaches so far this month - when at the same time last year, there had only been one.

"To have had such an increase and be nearly at the total for 2014 after only three and a half weeks is of real concern," he says.

Of those eight beach drownings, none have taken place at a patrol location, further reinforcing the need to always choose a patrolled beach and swim between the flags.

Volunteer surf lifeguards around the country have been kept on their toes, preventing hundreds more drownings from adding to that toll.

Mr Dalton says there has been a lot of focus on water safety this summer but the messages don't seem to be cutting through.

"People are continuing to overestimate their ability and underestimate the conditions and this is a deadly combination," he says.

With another 10 weeks left to go of the official Surf Life Saving patrol season and another long weekend just around the corner, Surf Life Saving New Zealand is calling for vigilance.

Mr Dalton says if people are going to continue to choose to swim at an unpatrolled beach, they need to take more care and understand what risks they may be putting themselves, or their children, into and take practical steps to avoid them.

"They should only go in the water once they know for sure it is a safe place to swim. It may look beautiful, but be deadly. Ask the locals and listen to their advice!"

Mr Dalton says a number of the drownings that have taken place this summer have involved the 'would-be rescuer.' When they go to the aid of someone else and end up in trouble or drowning themselves.

"If you see someone in danger, ensure your own safety and follow the drowning chain of survival. When you recognise distress, ask someone to call for help and dial 111. Find a flotation device to prevent submersion and remove the person from the water only if it's safe to do so. Provide care as needed and seek medical attention immediately," he says.

Water Safety New Zealand CEO Matt Claridge says the year is off to a horrific start.

"The weather's great and this means more people out and about enjoying the water. But this also means people need to take real care and consider how they're going to keep themselves and their whanau safe around water."

Of the 18 drownings year to date, 15 were men.

"We need our kiwi blokes to change the 'she'll be right attitude' and ask themselves, are the conditions suitable for me to go into or out on the water and do I have the necessary skills."

"The drownings simply must stop, but if that's to be achieved we need every New Zealander to decide that water safety is important."

Fast Facts - Drownings Year to Date

• 18 deaths as at 29 January
• Eight at (unpatrolled) beaches
• Five occurred at rivers
• 15 of the deaths males
• Nine of the deaths occurred while the victims were swimming

Key Beach safety messages:

• Wherever possible, find a beach that is patrolled - be prepared (www.findabeach.co.nz) and stay between the flags.
• Listen to the advice of lifeguards or locals.
• Always keep a very close eye on children in or near the water.
• Get a friend to swim with you - never swim or surf alone.
• Watch out for that rip - rips are calm, deep patches of water close to shore that can sometimes have waves breaking to the side. Rippled, discoloured or foamy water with debris can also mean there is a rip present.
• Don't overestimate you or your children's ability to cope in the conditions. Even waist deep water can be life threatening if you step in a hole or get hit by a large wave. Preferably be in the water next to them at all times on a surf beach.

For more information, please contact:

Lisa Honeybone, Media & Communications Specialist, SLSNZ
Phone 09 303 9335 or 0276 488 823
Email lisa.honeybone@surflifesaving.org.nz