Surf Life Saving Australia’s (SLSA) National Coastal Safety Report 2018, released by Senator Bridget McKenzie at Parliament House earlier this month, revealed 110 people lost their lives to drowning on the Australian coast over the 2017-18 period, 13 of which occurred on WA shores.
Following a record high last year in WA, with 28 drowning deaths, this season saw a 28% decrease on the WA five year average of 18, and a drop below the 14 year average of 15 drowning deaths.
Surf Life Saving WA General Manager Chris Peck said that while this decrease is good news, there is still much to be done to ensure that everyone who recreates on our coast also goes home safely.
“Were it not for the 731 rescues performed by surf life saving services in WA last season, this number would have risen dramatically.
“With studies showing that 5% of all rescues performed would have resulted in a fatality, and a further 3% in a critical injury, were it not for the actions of our surf life savers the total number of coastal and ocean drowning deaths this season would have potentially risen by a further 36 fatalities,” said Mr Peck.
Of the 13 coastal drowning deaths last season, men continue to be overrepresented at 85%, with boating incidents representing 23% of the drowning deaths; although swimming and wading remain the highest activity resulting in ocean and coastal drowning deaths over the past 14 years at 26%.
Other key WA statistics include:
- 62% occur more than 5km from a surf life saving service
- 54% occurred in regional or remote areas (23% in the Gascoyne region)
- 25 – 34 year old swimmers, waders & snorkelers
- 65 – 69 year old boaters
Surf Life Saving WA continues to remind people to be vigilant about their own safety, and that of friends and family, when they participate in coastal recreation activities.
“In particular we remind individuals heading out on the water in boats to be prepared for unexpected emergencies. This includes wearing a lifejacket, carrying the appropriate safety devices such as an EPIRB, and ensuring people know where you are going and when you will be back,” said Mr. Peck.
The majority of coastal and ocean drowning deaths in WA between 2004 – 18 occurred while swimming and wading (26%).
“This is why we continue to remind beachgoers to ensure they choose to swim at a patrolled beach between the red and yellow flags,” said Mr Peck.
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