RLSS delivers vital safety warning

January 09, 2018

BOOZE, boats and bravado are making rivers and creeks the most dangerous destinations for drownings in Australia.

BOOZE, boats and bravado are making rivers and creeks the most dangerous destinations for drownings in Australia.

And people enjoying the Murray River at Echuca-Moama this summer are being warned to be sensible and stay safe.

The Royal Life Saving Society said more Australians are drowning in rivers and creeks than anywhere else, and now is the time of year when the risks are greatest.

Its Riverina regional manager Michael Dasey is anxious about summer, to say the least.

‘‘We’re pretty nervous at the moment because of the issues we had last year over the Christmas and New Year period,’’ he said.

In 2017, 23 per cent of drowning deaths in Australia occurred in rivers and creeks, compared to 17 per cent at beaches.

‘‘This doesn’t surprise me at all,’’ Mr Dasey said.

He said one factor influencing the high drowning rate in rivers was people underestimating the risk.

‘‘Because the environment is unknown and visibility is poor. What you see on the top is not what’s underneath,’’ he said.

Alcohol also played a big part in river drownings, Mr Dasey said.

A study of the 770 river drowning deaths between 2002 and 2012 found 41 per cent of victims had consumed alcohol beforehand.

More than half of those had a blood alcohol concentration over the legal driving limit, and 40 per cent had a concentration four times the legal limit or more.

Of the 49 deaths in the Murray River, more than a quarter were boating immediately before drowning and nearly half had alcohol in their system.

‘‘When you look at these figures, you have to consider that the baseline. That is a conservative figure,’’ he said.

‘‘In some situations, drowning victims have been in the river for days so the alcohol is out of their system.’’

With Echuca-Moama experiencing an influx of tourists over the festive season, many of whom will be taking advantage of the Murray River, Mr Dasey urged people to do the right thing and take care of each other.

‘‘A lot of people are from outside the area so the river could be foreign to them, so they need to be aware of the local conditions,’’ he said.

‘‘People need to be aware of the risks and dangers of the river and give the river the respect it deserves.

‘‘Understand the river is a dynamic environment. It changes. So you need to watch out for each other.’’

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