Holiday drowning toll up on five year average

Monday, 4 January 2016

Ten people died by drowning in New Zealand waters this official Christmas holiday period (4pm Christmas Eve until 6am this morning) - the same as last year's grim holiday toll and three more deaths than the five-year average of seven.

Water Safety New Zealand Chief Executive Matt Claridge says this year's holiday toll is a tragic result, particularly after a widespread call for water safety pre-Christmas through the launch of the 'Stop and Think before you Go near water' campaign, supported by ACC.

"It's a simple message (Stop, Think, Go) but ensures that thinking about water safety - and the risks associated with the water, including your own limitations - is a top priority. This can be the difference between life and death.

"The toll is gut wrenching. So many families have lost loved ones - a toddler, sons, daughters, friends - and while there's a whole community of people, including Coastguard to Surf Lifeguards, Maritime Officers and many others, working hard to keep New Zealanders safe in the water, we can't do it alone. We need all New Zealanders to make water safety a priority today if we're to bring our horrific drowning toll down."

Six of the first seven drownings occurred on beaches during the first few days of the holiday period - four on Christmas Day. A three-year-old boy drowned during a family outing at a Hawkes Bay beach on Christmas Day, found in a nearby lagoon at Ocean Beach. The same day, a 17-year-old was swept away in a rip in Castle Cliff Beach, Wanganui, and two others - a man and woman - drowned during an incident at Ruapuke Beach in Raglan.

On Boxing Day, an 82-year-old Northland woman drowned accidentally in a pond on her property, believed to have slipped or fallen. A 22-year-old man was found dead at Mt Maunganui Beach in the early hours of December 27, and the following day a 53-year-old man died by drowning at Puatai Beach, Gisborne, while snorkeling with friends and getting into trouble in a rip.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand National Lifesaving Manager Allan Mundy says while the beach is a favourite playground for holidaymakers, it can also be dangerous.

"The alarming statistics reiterate the need to always swim between the flags at a patrolled location - none of these drownings took place between the flags."

A large number of people will still be on holiday and heading to our beaches over the coming weeks. "I can't stress enough the need for beachgoers to head to a patrolled beach [find online at].

"If people really can't get to a patrolled location then they need to consider the risks before entering the water. Don't overestimate your abilities in the surf, don't swim alone and keep small children within arm's reach at all times," he says.

With three deaths from drowning already for 2016, Matt Claridge says the year is off to a disastrous start.

"Summer still has a long way to go so when you're preparing for your day out at the beach, lake or river, it's vital we all stop and think about how you'll keep yourself - and friends and family - safe, especially young children who are unable to look after themselves."

On New Year's Day, a 29-year-old man died while swimming with friends at a Bay of Plenty waterfall. A 32-year-old man canyoning alone near Table Mountain in Thames, Coromandel, got into difficulties and died on January 2, and the following day a female tramper, 32, was washed away while crossing Deception River on the West Coast with four others.

WSNZ will release the provisional drowning toll for 2015 (national and regional) on Tuesday 26 January 2016.

For more information, please contact:

Lisa Smith, Media & Communications Specialist, SLSNZ
Phone 09 303 9335 or 0276 488 823