ECHUCA-MOAMA residents have been bluntly warned that rivers, creeks and streams have become the leading location for Australian drowning deaths.
Rivers continue to be the leading location for fatal drowning, with the latest Royal Life Saving research revealing that a staggering 1113 people drowned in Australian rivers, creeks and streams since July, 2002.
The newly released Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2017 showed that, in the past year, 68 people died in rivers around the country.
Men are at most risk, drowning at a rate that is four times that of women (81 per cent of all drowning deaths in rivers).
Alarmingly, of the men who drowned, more than half had a contributory level of drugs or alcohol in their system.
Sixty eight people drowned in the Murray between 2002 and 2015 — 90 per cent were male and 40 per cent of all incidents involved alcohol.
Royal Life Saving Society Australia chief executive Justin Scarr said men are prone to taking unnecessary risks and over-estimating their abilities.
“We are asking people to follow four simple steps to reduce their drowning risk in rivers, wear a lifejacket, avoid alcohol and drugs around water, never swim alone and learn how to save a life,” he said.
It is often incorrectly assumed that tourists account for most drowning deaths, however, the research revealed 74 per cent of people who drowned in the country’s rivers were locals.
“Conditions in rivers can change rapidly. Just because you regularly visit an area, doesn’t mean the environment will be the same the next time you go,” Mr Scarr said.
“Rivers can be very hazardous environments. Often you can’t see ice cold water, rocks or snags like tree branches or strong currents.
“Australian rivers are beautiful and can be great places for boating, swimming, kayaking and even taking in the environment along the river bank.
“We want everyone to enjoy these beautiful natural environments but to do so safely, by showing rivers the respect they deserve.”