Drowning report prompts urgent rivers safety plea
THE Murray River is again in the spotlight, but not for a good reason. According to the Royal Life Saving Society’s National Drowning Report, four people died on the river during the 2016-17 financial year.
Among the fatalities was 28-year-old Seymour man Ashley Gleeson who drowned after falling while trying to jump from the Echuca-Moama bridge on Australia Day.
A 10-year study by Royal Life Saving Australia released in 2014 also identified the Murray as a major drowning spot, with 43 people drowning on the river from 2002 to 2012 — a major concern for Marine Rescue NSW Moama Unit commander Ken Bambling.
‘‘Much too often, the volunteers here are called on to assist in the search for people presumed to have drowned in the Murray,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a real tragedy and we’ll do anything to prevent drownings.’’
Mr Bambling said people must be aware of the dangers of the Murray River as it could be a hazardous waterway.
‘‘It is long, winding and shallow in parts and is used by a variety of vessels ranging from houseboats and water skiers to recreational fishers and kayakers,’’ he said.
Australia’s inland waterways continue to be the leading location for fatal drowning, accounting for 97 deaths in 2016-17, almost one third of the total. This included 68 drownings in rivers.
Australia-wide, 291 people drowned in waterways in the past financial year — an increase of nine deaths on the previous year.
‘‘We urge boaters to tell someone where they are going, always wear a lifejacket and keep a proper look out — don’t mix alcohol and the river and never swim alone.’’
■ For more information visit www.royallifesaving.com.au