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Surf lifesavers are urging beachgoers to swim between the red and yellow flags for the final two weekends of the patrol season after three drownings in NSW on Easter Sunday capped a horror day for volunteers.

The coastal drowning toll for the state has now risen to 46 for the period July 1 2022 to present after volunteers were called to incidents on the Far North Coast, in the Hunter, and on the South Coast of NSW on Sunday 9 April.

First, at around 10:06AM, the Surf Life Saving NSW State Operations Centre (SOC) was made aware of a missing male, described as in his 70s, last seen in the water at Fingal Spit in Port Stephens. The man was witnessed to have submerged in the water, some way from where the flags fly on Fingal Beach.

NSW Water Police, NSW Ambulance, the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter and Fingal Beach SLSC’s Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) were engaged to assist in the search, with lifesavers in the IRB locating the man and commencing CPR once he was on board.

Despite volunteers best efforts, the man was declared deceased on scene.

Hours later, at around 3PM, the SOC was advised of a swimmer in distress approximately 50m offshore from Killalea Beach in Shell Cove on the state’s South Coast.

Shellharbour lifeguards and Kiama Downs SLSC volunteers were engaged to assist the man, described as in his 40s, however he was also declared deceased on scene following resuscitation attempts by NSW Ambulance paramedics.

A third drowning in the Tweed River at around midday saw Far North Coast Support Operations team members engaged to investigate reports of a person being seen face down in the water, but the team was stood down before arrival by NSW Water Police.

“This is another tragic day in what has been a terrible year for drownings in NSW and comes off the back of the worst summer in NSW history,” said SLSNSW CEO, Steve Pearce.

“The drowning toll in NSW continues to rise and every drowning has occurred at an unpatrolled location or outside of patrol hours.

“The patrol season finishes in just a few weeks, on ANZAC Day, and we really hope that beachgoers take the opportunity over the coming weeks to visit only patrolled locations and swim between the red and yellow flags.

“Just as it was all summer, the message remains the same. If we can’t see you, we can’t save you.”

Monday 10 April 2023