Clarence Valley Independent

Coastal Drowning Tragedies Up By 22 Percent

NSW has recorded a 22% spike in coastal drowning deaths over the 2018-19 year with 44 people tragically drowning along the NSW coast.

Surf Life Saving NSW (SLSNSW) has documented this worrying increase in fatalities in the 2019 Surf Life Saving NSW Coastal Safety Report, which details coastal drowning figures and identifies trends and areas of concern for the coming summer.

Key findings of the report include:

  • 86% of coastal drowning victims were male
  • 59% of drownings occurred at a beach location
  • 18% of coastal drownings were attributed to rock fishing
  • 7% of those who drowned were attempting to rescue someone else
  • there was an increase in drowning deaths involving scuba diving or snorkelling.

The figures are concerning for surf lifesavers and with summer about to hit, water safety volunteers and professionals are looking to re-double efforts to reduce the drowning toll this year.

“The near-record drowning toll last year has our surf lifesavers on high alert,” said SLSNSW CEO Steven Pearce. “Last year, almost half of the total drownings occurred during summer. At one point we were recording a drowning every two or three days.”

Surf Life Saving NSW is looking to new technology and new equipment to help save lives this summer.

“We have rolled out new rescue equipment as part of a major funding package from the NSW Government, including additional jetskis and support operations vehicles.

“Combined with drones which are our eyes in sky, these increased surveillance and response measures will give our volunteers a big boost to their capability,” said Steve Pearce.

Emergency callouts also increased, with the SLSNSW State Operations Centre logging 625 requests for assistance from emergency services compared to 588 the year prior.

“Surf Life Saving is increasingly in demand when emergencies happen on the coast and people’s lives are at risk. Our volunteers now provide a major rescue capability way beyond the red and yellow flags,” said Steve Pearce.

Additional technology measures looking to be trialled this summer to enhance public safety include Permanent Emergency Response Beacons at unpatrolled locations and a trial of Beach Wifi technology that will deliver safety information in a range of languages and real-time hazard warnings.

Since 1 July 2019, there have been 11 coastal drownings recorded in NSW waters.

Drownings by NSW Branch – TOTAL  44

  • Far North Coast 5
  • North Coast 7
  • Mid North Coast 4
  • Lower North Coast 1
  • Hunter 3
  • Central Coast 0
  • Sydney Northern Beaches 2
  • Sydney 15
  • Illawarra 1
  • South Coast 5
  • Far South Coast 1

The 2019 Surf Life Saving NSW Coastal Safety Report can be viewed at

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