13 March, 2017
Life Saving Victoria has reported a spike in fatal drownings in Victoria, with 11 more deaths compared to the average this financial year.
There have been 39 reported drowning deaths across the state since last July which is 11 more than the five year average (28) for the same time period.
In eight cases the victim had reportedly consumed alcohol prior to drowning.
This includes a tragic double drowning involving two men who attempted to swim across a lake at Redleap Reserve in Mill Park on Sunday 5 March, 2017.
Life Saving Victoria’s Principal Research Associate Dr Bernadette Matthews said it’s important to never mix alcohol and swimming.
"Alcohol affects your swimming ability and judgement of potentially dangerous situations,’’ Dr Matthews said.
"Please drink responsibly around water and swim with a friend where possible.’’
She said 18 of the drowning deaths over the past eight months occurred in beaches, which is six more compared to the five year average (12) for the same time period.
"We always encourage people to swim at a patrolled beach whenever possible and read safety signs to understand any potential dangers,’’ Dr Matthews said.
"It’s important to know how to spot and avoid rip currents, as well as be aware and prepared for conditions which can quickly change.’’
Similar to previous years, males continue to be overrepresented in the drowning toll, while young children (0-4 years) and adults aged 65 years and over have the highest drowning rates per head of population.
Dr Matthews said in nine of the drowning deaths, the person was swimming at the time which is an increase of three compared to the five year average (six) for the same time period.
"We strongly advise everyone to learn survival swimming and water safety skills and to make sure you are aware of your own abilities before entering the water,’’ she said.
Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley urged Victorians to stay alert around the water and take extra care for their own safety and those they care for.
"These statistics are really alarming. We know Victorians love the water, whether it be the beaches, rivers or pools and this is a timely reminder to stay focused and alert when it comes to water safety,'' he said.
"Know your swimming capability, swim at patrolled beaches, read the safety signs and never swim alone. Take the time to do these things and look after yourself and those around you.''
Commissioner Lapsley congratulated Life Saving Victoria for its leadership and focus on water safety and acknowledged Life Saving Victoria has been actively campaigning for funding to ensure all primary school aged children in Victoria learn survival swimming and water safety skills which has been supported by the Victorian Government.