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Despite the fast response of Surf Life Saving and emergency service personnel, a 27-year-old man drowned yesterday at remote Wattamolla Beach after swimming in a coastal lagoon outside lifeguard patrol hours.

At 5.08pm yesterday, the Surf Life Saving NSW State Operations Centre was alerted by a call to Triple Zero that a man was missing in the lagoon adjacent to Wattamolla Beach in Sydney’s Royal National Park. A number of Surf Life Saving assets, including the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter, were tasked to the scene.

Once on scene, a Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter crewman was winched down to the lagoon and commenced an underwater search for the missing man. He was assisted by Surf Life Saving Sydney Duty Officers, Joel Wiseman, Jackson Towns and an off-duty lifeguard.

“On arriving at Wattamolla, we immediately commenced a search of the lagoon for the missing man. The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter crewman had flippers and goggles and was able to dive under the water. After 20 minutes of searching, he found the man who was about seven feet under the water,” Joel Wiseman said.

“The Westpac Helicopter crewman managed to pull the man to the surface and we got him onto a rescue board and took him to shore where CPR was commenced.

“Unfortunately, despite the best efforts and swift actions of surf lifesavers and emergency service personnel, the man could not be revived and was pronounced deceased at the scene by a NSW Ambulance doctor,” Mr Wiseman said.

The deceased man had been swimming in the Wattamolla Beach lagoon with a woman who was treated by paramedics at the scene and taken to hospital conscious and breathing.

There have been six drownings at Wattamolla Beach, in Sydney’s Royal National Park, over the past five years and a total of 12 drownings/deaths at Royal National Park beaches in general – including Figure 8 Pools and Cape Solander.[BM1] 

In recent years there has been a significant increase in the use of the Royal National Park with visitations up by 50.2% between 2012 and 2018 to over six million visits per year and it is now the second busiest National Park in the state.

Wattamolla and Garie Beach are used by large numbers of people from a wide range

of demographic backgrounds. This includes residents from Greater Sydney and

Wollongong, as well as a large number of domestic and international visitors. Many of the visitors that use the Royal National Park beaches are considered high-risk swimming groups with many from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities.

For this reason, Wattamolla beach is now patrolled by paid lifeguards during summer. Unfortunately, lifeguard services had finished for the day at the time the man disappeared in the lagoon.

At the time of the incident there was a significant amount of thunderstorm activity in the area and lifeguards had warned a number of people not to swim in the Wattamolla Beach lagoon.

Duty Officer Joel Wiseman said that the search and recovery of the man was a complex operation involving multiple emergency service personnel.

“Because Wattamolla Beach is in such a remote area and has limited mobile phone reception, emergency communications is very challenging. However, we were able to quickly set up a portable radio repeater to assist police, NSW Fire and Rescue and other emergency services in the response,”

Surf Life Saving NSW extends its condolences to the family and friends of the man who drowned at Wattamolla Beach yesterday.

Since 1 July 2020, 17 people have drowned on the NSW coastline. During the 2019/20 season, 49 people drowned on the NSW coastline.

Beach Safety Tips

  • Always swim between the red and yellow patrol flags, for your nearest patrolled beach check the BeachSafe app or website

  • Read the safety signs for information about the beach and ask a lifesaver or lifeguard for safety information

  • Always swim with someone else so you can look out for each other, and always supervise children around the water

  • Never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs

  • If you need help in the water, stay calm and attract attention by raising one arm

  • In an emergency, dial Triple Zero

  • For information about patrol times, weather, and beach locations visit the Beachsafe Website or Download the App.

Tuesday 5 January 2021