Take care in the wa­ter

The Cobram Courier - - NEWS - By Pa­trick Tansey

The Mur­ray River is Aus­tralia’s worst drown­ing black spot among rivers, creeks and streams.

Re­search by Royal Life Sav­ing Aus­tralia, be­tween July 1, 2003, and June 30 this year, re­vealed 1087 peo­ple have drowned, while an es­ti­mated 522 peo­ple were hos­pi­talised for a non-fa­tal drown­ing in­ci­dent, many left with a per­ma­nent dis­abil­ity.

The re­search high­lighted men were most at risk, ac­count­ing for 80 per cent of all drown­ing deaths.

Alarm­ingly, of the adult men who drowned in rivers, 56 per cent had a con­trib­u­tory level of al­co­hol and/or drugs in their sys­tem.

Now ap­proach­ing peak hol­i­day sea­son when hun­dreds will ven­ture to the area to en­joy our sec­tion of the river, Co­bram SES unit con­troller John Stava said the re­port out­lined the im­por­tance of be­ing safe and re­spon­si­ble in and around our wa­ter­ways.

‘‘When we have our in­ci­dents, usu­ally they tend to be in the peak hol­i­day pe­riod,’’ he said.

‘‘The mix of hol­i­day mak­ing, al­co­hol, boats and un­fa­mil­iar­ity with the en­vi­ron­ment of the river can be a re­ally bad com­bi­na­tion.’’.

He said hav­ing river aware­ness should be paramount to vis­i­tors be­fore en­ter­ing the wa­ter.

‘‘We have re­trieved peo­ple who are sim­ply un­aware of the dan­gers of the river.

‘‘They don’t re­alise that the bot­tom of the river is quite in­con­sis­tent. It can have clay banks, it can have sand, it can grade off grad­u­ally or it might have steep drop-offs.

‘‘If you don’t un­der­stand cur­rents for ex­am­ple, there can be cur­rents in places where you wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily ex­pect. The dif­fer­ence be­tween calm and swift cur­rents can only be a mat­ter of 2 m or 3 m apart.’’

Mr Stava said be­cause the SES was de­ployed from land, it was rare mem­bers would per­form wa­ter res­cue, so it was cru­cial peo­ple su­per­vised friends or fam­ily, keep­ing a close eye on them at all times.

He said even the gen­eral pub­lic should be alert at all times in case disas­ter strikes.

‘‘If some­body is in trou­ble swim­ming, their best res­cuers will be the peo­ple there at the scene.

‘‘We have had in­stances in the past where the core prob­lem was the fact the child was un­su­per­vised and the par­ent was in no po­si­tion to res­cue them, let alone even no­tice they were miss­ing.

‘‘Peo­ple need to re­alise that most of what we do is ac­tu­ally as­sist­ing po­lice in lo­cat­ing and re­triev­ing bod­ies that have al­ready drowned — we aren’t out there sav­ing lives.’’

Mr Stava said the sta­tis­tics were un­sur­pris­ing, ad­mit­ting he had en­coun­tered ‘‘dozens’’ of drown­ings in this part of the river.

‘‘I think we had nine drown­ings one year quite a few years ago,’’ he said.

Mr Stava said peo­ple in­tend­ing on swim­ming in the river this sum­mer should fol­low a se­ries of sim­ple rules — don’t swim alone, don’t swim af­ter dark, don’t tread wa­ter ver­ti­cally in the river and never ever swim down­stream with the cur­rent un­der­wa­ter be­cause you could be trav­el­ling at 3 km to 5 km/h which could cause the per­son to get knocked out or be­come dis­ori­en­tated if they hit a log.

Take care: Mr Stava is plead­ing with res­i­dents and hol­i­day mak­ers to fa­mil­iarise them­selves with the con­di­tions of the river be­fore swim­ming.

Watch out: Co­bram SES unit con­troller John Stava and vol­un­teer Car­rie Hawke are hop­ing peo­ple re­main vig­i­lant in and around our wa­ter­ways this sum­mer.

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