Lifeguard's plea to beachgoers following tragic drownings
RIP CURRENTS in Australia kill more people than cyclones, storms, floods, bushfires, shark attacks and stingers all put together.
This startling statistic is one Coffs Harbour City Council lifeguard Greg Hackfath hopes will hit home for anyone about to enter our waterways this summer.
Reflecting on the tragic events of Monday evening at Moonee Beach, he said the lack of widespread knowledge on beach safety was a vital but seemingly unsolvable issue.
The incident resulted in two holidaying Indian nationals drowning while attempting to rescue three teenage relatives who had got caught in a rip at the unpatrolled beach.
The body of a third man, who went missing, was found near Port Macquarie around midday yesterday. The three teenagers survived.
"I sit awake at night thinking about how to solve this whole problem, but I don't think it can be solved. I wish I could get the knowledge out there to everyone," Mr Hackfath said
"Unless governments are willing to throw millions into beach safety and having lifeguards at all beaches from dawn until dusk, people are still going to swim after hours and they're going to swim at unpatrolled beaches. It's human nature."
Mr Hackfath said there were a number of circumstances on Monday night that led to the tragedy, including that Moonee Beach is isolated and proved difficult for emergency services to reach, that there was significant rainfall the day prior, and that the beach was not patrolled.
"Creek and river mouths are dangerous spots. On Monday night we rescued one girl and picked up the deceased men around 700m out at sea, simply because of the tidal current and floodwaters," he said.
"When we looked at the conditions that night and found there were six people missing, we really thought we would be picking up six dead bodies.
"When we found three survived we were amazed."
There are three important messages Mr Hackfath wants the public to know: if you can't identify a rip, swim only between the flags, always take a floatation device when swimming, and if you're a local and you see someone about to enter the water in a dangerous location - say something.
"If you look out at the waves and you can't see rips or currents, you need to swim between the flags because that shows you're inexperienced.
"Secondly, if you find yourself in a situation where you need to perform a rescue, it is necessary for you to have a floatation device like a surfboard or bodyboard. It could mean the difference between life and death.
"Thirdly, if you're a local and you see someone about to get into a dangerous situation, give them some advice. Tell them about patrolled beaches and swimming between the flags. It could save their life."