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Surf lifesavers urge caution after horror start to season

Surf lifesavers are pleading with beachgoers to exercise caution and common sense in the water these holidays, following a significant spike in drownings and other fatalities on Queensland beaches in recent months.

Nine beachgoers have already lost their lives across the state since Surf Life Saving Queensland’s 2018/19 reporting year began on 1 July, representing one of the worst starts to a season on record.

The official cause of death is yet to be confirmed in several cases, but it already reflects a sharp increase from two drownings recorded over the corresponding period of time last year.

In the past five months there have been four fatalities recorded in Far North Queensland (two on Green Island and one each on Trinity Beach and Fitzroy Island), four across the Sunshine Coast (three at Noosa and one at Currimundi), and one at Horseshoe Bay in Townsville.

While the majority of fatalities occurred at unpatrolled beaches or outside of designated patrol hours, SLSQ lifesaving services manager Peta Lawlor said it was difficult to pinpoint an exact cause behind the recent influx.

“Unfortunately people are continuing to put their own lives at risk by entering the surf at night or outside of the flags and the devastating reality is, not everyone makes it back safely,” Ms Lawlor said.

“Sometimes we see a strong trend or common thread linking fatalities together, but it hasn’t been the case so far this season, with people from all backgrounds and all walks of life tragically losing their lives.

“If anything, it’s a heartbreaking reminder that anyone at anytime can get into trouble if they’re not putting safety first.

“It might be a flash rip, a dumping wave, or even a heart attack in the water, but if you run into trouble the chances of survival are significantly reduced if you’re not swimming at a patrolled beach near surf lifesavers and lifeguards.”

From this Saturday (December 15), SLSQ will be fielding extended patrol hours across Queensland, along with increased jet ski and helicopter surveillance patrols across the South East, as lifesavers look to ramp up safety ahead of the peak summer holidays.

However Ms Lawlor called on beachgoers to also help out by exercising caution this summer.

“It doesn’t matter how competent you are in the surf, the ocean can be extremely unpredictable at times and we’ve already seen that unexpected tragedies can and do occur,” she said.

“There have been plenty of drownings in the past that could have been avoided if the person involved had been swimming at a patrolled beach.

“This summer we’re pleading with all beachgoers to put safety first, exercise caution in and around the water, and only swim between the red and yellow flags.”

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