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Surf Life Saving New South Wales (SLSNSW) welcomes the recommendations of the NSW Coroner after the inquest concluded into the tragic death of 14-year old Bronson Rhodes at Port Macquarie’s Flynns Beach in December 2017.

As the country’s peak water safety and rescue organisation, Surf Life Saving is committed to saving lives and any life lost along our coastline is one too many.

Surf Life Saving NSW together with Port Macquarie Surf Life Saving Club have cooperated with the Coroner’s inquest into Bronson’s death over the last few months.

“We welcome the findings and recommendations from the Coroner which will only help us to strengthen our approach to keeping our beaches safe,” said Surf Life Saving NSW President George Shales.

The coronial inquest was not about assigning blame to individual volunteers, who give up their time to keep millions of beachgoers safe and perform thousands of rescues each year. Many of the measures recommended by the Coroner have already been implemented since Bronson’s death and Surf Life Saving NSW is committed to further strengthening processes and procedures to better protect people and save lives along our coastline.

“While Surf Life Saving NSW has already implemented changes following Bronson’s drowning, including updates to our operating procedures, greater training of volunteer lifesavers and additional rescue equipment deployed to the region, we will act on all the recommendations from the Coroner and will be working towards implementing any other measures which might improve public safety,” said George Shales.

The death of Bronson Rhodes was felt deeply by the entire Port Macquarie community and Surf Life Saving NSW hopes the conclusion of the Coronial inquest will give some comfort and closure to Bronson’s family and friends.

“As lifesavers we believe the death of anyone, let alone a young boy, is an absolute tragedy and we will do whatever we can to try to prevent this from happening to any family in the future.

“I want to personally acknowledge Bronson’s mother for her incredible strength and courage ever since the death of her son, but particularly during this investigation process. On behalf of all volunteer lifesavers I offer our deepest condolences to Bronson’s family and friends,” said George Shales.

The Coroner’s findings included that Bronson Rhodes drowned at Port Macquarie on 16 December 2017. Not one single factor led to his death and the Coroner likened it to a “perfect storm” of conditions that resulted in the sad outcome. The Coroner emphasised how seconds count, how quickly a person can drown and commented on the fragility of human life.

Recommendations from the coronial investigation relating to Surf Life Saving NSW include:

  • That a policy be developed and implemented concerning an appropriately qualified and experienced person being designated as an observer in the observation tower (if such a tower exists) during patrol hours;

  • That additional and ongoing surveillance training be provided to members who will be using an observation tower;

  • That research be undertaken in to the viability and reliability of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones) that can deliver a flotation device;

  • That consideration be given to using the findings of this Inquest to brief patrol members across NSW prior to the 2019-20 season.


Friday 13 September 2019