Epidemic killing almost as many as car crashes
THERE is a drowning epidemic in Australia, and there have almost been as many water deaths over this Christmas period as car fatalities.
We hear the warnings year on year, every summer.
But since December 19, there have been 17 drowning deaths, with the latest tragedy occurring
on Monday, when a body was pulled from Lake Eucumbene in the Snowy Mountains.
NSW Police had been searching for the man, aged in his 40s, who went missing on New Year's Day about 3pm.
Also on Monday, a t wo-year-old boy was pulled from a backyard pool or pond in Fairfield West in Sydney. He has been rushed to hospital and his condition is unknown.
On Sunday, a toddler was rushed to hospital and died after being found unconscious in a pool in the backyard of a home in Macquarie Fields in Sydney.
Channel Nine reported the toddler's uncle noticed the pool gate was slightly opened and he rushed to find the two-year-old in the pool.
While the national road toll stands at 30 deaths as of January 1, there has been an alarming increase in water-related deaths.
Royal Life Saving Society chief executive Justin Scarr told news.com.au the number was three or four times higher than what they would usually expect over the Christmas and New Year period.
"People need to understand the risks of these waterways," he said.
Michael Ilinsky, Royal Life Saving NSW spokesman, told ABC it was a disastrous summer.
"It is definitely the season of distractions - the knock at the door, the ringing phone, other children crying out for assistance; they are the things that take our attention away from backyard swimming pools," he said.
On December 19, a 16-year-old boy died after he was pulled from the Macquarie River near Dubbo in Central West of NSW.
It is believed Sam Fraser was swinging off a vine over the water when he went missing.
On Christmas Day, a 27-year-old man, Sujan Adhikari, died at the Wattamolla Lagoon at the Royal National Park in Sydney's south. It was followed by three tragedies on Boxing Day.
Geoffrey Blackadder, 60, died while trying to save young relatives from a rip at Wooli Beach on the NSW north coast.
A man, 56, drowned at Merry Beach at Kioloa on the NSW south coast and a 27-year-old man died at Kangaroo Valley, in the NSW Shoalhaven region during a Boxing Day swim at a picnic ground.
Two more people were killed in NSW waterways on December 27.
A man's body was found in swimming baths at The Entrance on the Central Coast, after he suffered a suspected heart attack.
A 25-year-old man's body was recovered from water at Greendale in western Sydney after he went missing while swimming with friends on Boxing Day.
Tragedy struck again on December 29, when a two-year-old boy died in hospital, a week after he and his twin sister were pulled unconscious from a backyard swimming pool. His sister had earlier died.
A man, believed to be aged between 65 and 75 died the same day, after being discovered at Byron Bay.
On December 30, there were reports of five people drowning.
The body of 42-year-old man Peter Abd-El-Kaddous was discovered in a waterway in Wagga, in the NSW Riverina region.
A 46-year-old man died in a suspected drowning at Yamba on the NSW north coast and the body of 14-year-old Tui Gallaher, who went missing off Maroubra beach in Sydney, was found.
Pakistani man Adnan Khan-Alfridi, 27, also died after being pulled from a waterhole at Mermaid Pools in Sydney's south and a man, believed to be aged in his 70s, died after being pulled from Lady Robinsons Beach, also in Sydney's south.
Mr Scarr said the Royal Life Saving Society was deeply concerned about the number of inland water drownings.
"Often rivers, lakes and swimming holes can look calm but there are still significant currents and debris washing through these areas. There are steep drop-offs and significant changes."
"Traditionally alcohol is involved in drownings in inland waterways, it's too early to tell if that was a factor in any of these cases, but we urge people to minimise their alcohol consumption."
Peter Wright, who has been part of a rescue team in the Albury-Wodonga region, on the Victorian-NSW border, for 40 years, said in a Royal Life Saving Society warning video people who get in trouble in the water shouldn't panic.
"I find it frustrating so many (drownings) are avoidable," he said.
"Children are obviously the hardest dive you can ever have, and we've seen it where parents are expecting a four-year-old child to be supervised by a seven-year-old."
Mr Scarr said the Royal Life Saving Society would have to improve its plan to prevent drownings, especially at inland waterways.
He also warned people about backyard pool deaths and the sudden tragedy that can strike.
"There's an incredibly tragic risk zone at the beginning of January when people are returning to work after they've been in the pool with their kids all summer," he said.
"Remove pool toys and make sure the gate is working. If you have a portable swimming pool, it's a good time to pack that away."