South Coast surf lifesaving season ends

Tathra Beach is closed to swimmers in early April after local woman Chris Armstrong was killed in a shark attack.

Tathra Beach is closed to swimmers in early April after local woman Chris Armstrong was killed in a shark attack.

Source: Canberra Times

THE 2014 surf lifesaving season came to an end on Sunday at South Coast beaches with volunteer lifesavers having a busy summer.

Three fatalities were recorded off South Coast beaches this summer, including the drowning of two men on October 9 at Mogareeka and Quondola Point and the death of a 63-year-old woman following a shark attack at Tathra on April 3.

Surf lifesavers and other emergency personnel coordinate a search for Chris Armstrong after April's shark attack.

Surf lifesavers and other emergency personnel coordinate a search for Chris Armstrong after April's shark attack.

Far South Coast director of Surf Life Saving Andrew Edmunds said the 2014 season was an improvement on the eight fatalities recorded in 2012, or the five deaths reported in 2011 and four in 2010.

 No fatalities were reported by South Coast lifesavers in the 2013 summer. 

Mr Edmunds said additional efforts were made to prevent a repeat of the loss of life recorded in 2012, although there was only so much volunteers can do.

“Sometimes it’s a combination of just being in the right place at the right time and careful planning, which is why we have been deploying additional patrols on the weekends to look at known black spots.”

Mr Edmunds said black spots are popular yet unpatrolled beaches like Mackenzies Beach near Batemans Bay or Moruya Heads further south.

He said lifesavers on South Coast beaches had an increased workload during the 2014 season despite the number of volunteers remaining stable.

“We’ve recorded an increase of 20,000 people heading to patrolled beaches and swimming between the flags this season – a trend we attribute to proactive messaging during holiday periods,” he said.

Mr Edmunds said lifesavers conducted more patrols than usual with 100 rescue missions initiated and 930 preventative actions recorded.

He said lifesavers also responded to 40 emergency requests for assistance outside patrol hours, from surfers in trouble to fishermen washed into the ocean or capsized kayaks and jet skis.

"Dangerous surf forced 12 beach closures, and our members performed almost 300 first aid treatments and watched over 90,100 patrons at Malua Bay, Broulee, Moruya, Narooma, Bermagui, Tathra and Pambula," he said.

Broulee had the most rescues with 29, followed by Batemans Bay (26), Pambula with (23) and Moruya with (19).

Tathra surf lifesavers, police and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter conduct a search for a young man swept out to sea during a swim at the Bega River mouth in October 2013.

Tathra surf lifesavers, police and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter conduct a search for a young man swept out to sea during a swim at the Bega River mouth in October 2013.

Surf lifesavers will still be available to respond to emergencies on the South Coast during the off-season, although regular patrols will not be conducted.

Royal Life Saving Society ACT training manager Ben Cuttriss said the society is in the final stages of launching an ACT Lifesaving Club that will be affiliated with South Coast Life Saving.

The sporting club is expected to begin training from June and will provide support for Canberra-based lifesavers who volunteer on the South Coast during summer.

“This is another avenue for lifesavers from the Nipper to Master levels to enhance their skills in the pool and in the surf,” he said.

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