SA surf life saving season opens with dire warning

The Surf Life Saving patrol season will officially start on Saturday after a record number of people drowned off South Australia’s beaches last year.

Authorities have reminded beachgoers about water safety and say our surf lifesavers will be on high alert ahead of a hot and dry summer.

Thirteen people lost their lives in the state’s waterways in 2018-19, the most drowning deaths since 2005-06, seven more than the previous year and above the national average of eight.

Surf Life Saving Australia’s latest report revealed among the SA fatalities seven were swimmers or waders, one was a scuba diver, one was using a watercraft and one died while attempting a rescue.

Of the 13 drownings, nine happened near a beach while three occurred close to cliffs or rocky areas.

Surf Life Saving SA chief executive Damien Marangon said his organisation aimed to see zero preventable deaths in SA waters.

“Our people are fiercely committed to achieving that through the continued work across our frontline lifesaving services, community programs and education,” he said.

SLS SA president John Baker said almost 2500 active volunteer surf lifesavers from 21 surf clubs would begin patrolling from Saturday til the end of Easter in April, including weekends and public holidays.

“Last season, our surf lifesavers completed over 71,000 hours on patrol across our metropolitan, South Coast and regional beaches,” he said.

“This incredible effort saw over 8,000 preventative actions taken, in addition to the hundreds of rescues performed, which contributed significantly to the safety of swimmers and beach visitors.”

Emergency Services Minister Corey Wingard said SA surf lifesavers rescued 300 people from drowning at our beaches and coastlines last summer.

While SA’s number of drowning deaths are the lowest among mainland states and territories, the fatality rate by population is the highest at 0.75 per 100,000 people.

Analysis showed Australia’s drowning deaths in the past 15 years occurred most commonly in the summer months and between 12pm to 5pm.

Last year, four out of five drowning fatalities in Australia were men and 20-24 year olds were over-represented.

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