The Coffs Coast Advocate

Coffs locals save woman at unguarded beach

A COFFS Harbour woman claims three lives were almost lost due to a lack of lifeguards on duty for one of the busiest days on Coffs Coast beaches.

Jacquie Wynne and her partner Andrew Pitzen were at Diggers Beach on Australia Day at 2.30pm when they spotted a woman struggling in the water.

Andrew dived into action and swam out to the woman, but her frantic movements almost took him under.

“She was screaming that she was drowning and pushing him under,” Jacquie said.

“So I swam out to them and we managed to turn her on her back and start to bring her in.”

But the citizen lifesavers soon got into trouble themselves, with the victim and the rescuers all getting stuck in a rip.

“We were all exhausted and the woman looked like she was about a minute from drowning,” Jacquie said.

A board rider came to the rescue and eventually got them to shore, but Jacquie believes the real danger was a lack of lifeguards on the beach.

“It's advertised as a patrolled beach but it wasn't on Australia Day, one of the busiest days,” she said.

“I'm by no means a life saver and three lives were at risk out there and it could have been prevented.”

Coffs Harbour City Council have come under fire this week over the cutting of lifeguard patrols on local beaches, with some services, including that at Diggers Beach, ending before Australia Day.

A spokesperson for Coffs Harbour City Council said budgetary constraints meant lifeguard services couldn't continue at all local beaches past Australia Day. “Council doesn't want to cut services, as we're committed to providing safe beaches for visitors and locals alike,” the spokesperson said.

“We can't put lifeguards on every beach for 24 hours of every day.” Moves by Emerald Beach tourism operators to finance patrols were reciprocated by council, who added $13,000 to the operators' funds for patrols to continue until the end of the Australia Day weekend.

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