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As volunteer surf lifesavers raise the flags on a new patrol season, a report on coastal drowning deaths shows a worrying increase in fatalities during 2017/18.

The 2018 Surf Life Saving NSW Coastal Safety Report details coastal drowning figures and identifies trends and areas of concern for surf lifesaving service providers.

A number of key findings emerged, including;

  • There were 39 coastal drowning deaths, up 6 from the previous year and is just above the 10-year average of 38.

  • Summer proved to be the most deadly with over 55% (22 people) drowning between December and February. In December alone, 10 people drowned, more than double the 10-year average.  

  • Overwhelmingly males continue to represent the majority of drowning deaths, however there was a sharp increase in the number of females who drowned with 7 cases recorded (almost double the previous year).

  • Again, 20-29 year olds drowned the most, accounting for 26% of deaths while 40-49 year olds accounted for 23%.

  • Sadly there was a spike in coastal drowning deaths in those aged under 15 years. This season there were three high profile incidents with victims aged between 10 and 14, with two cases a direct result of rip currents.  

  • 36% of people drowned while swimming, predominantly as a result of getting into difficulty in a rip current, and 18% died rock fishing.

  • There was a concerning rise in the number of drowning incidents that occurred within 1km of a patrolled location, accounting for 62% (24) of drowning deaths.  

  • Regions which experienced the main increases in drownings included: Far North Coast, Mid North Coast and the Illawarra. Drownings were down in Sydney and for the second year in a row, there were no coastal drownings recorded on the Lower North Coast.

The report was presented to the NSW Premier The Hon Gladys Berejiklian by SLSNSW CEO Steven Pearce as part of the traditional Raising of the Flags ceremony at Sydney’s Manly Beach on Friday.

“This report and its findings will play an important role in our understanding of what is happening on the NSW coastline and will help us better position our assets and people,” said Mr Pearce.

Friday 28 September 2018