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With school holidays about to commence, the Australian Lifeguard Service (ALS) is pleading with the public to always swim at a patrolled location. Three people were pulled from the water in the last four days and remain in a critical condition. Two of the incidents occurred just 800m from the red and yellow flags.*

INCIDENT 1 – Clarkes Beach

On Friday 29 March a 69 year-old woman from Sydney was found unconscious in the water at Clarkes Beach in Byron Bay, just 800 metres from the patrolled area on the main beach.

An off-duty nurse and kayak instructor performed CPR until Lifeguards arrived to the scene within minutes of being alerted. The woman was winched and transported to Gold Coast University Hospital by the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter where she remains in a critical condition.

While the two Lifeguards attended the CPR incident, the Main Beach UAV pilots assisted with beach management. The pilots, who are also trained lifeguards, were able to close the beach and monitor the area for the duration of the incident.

It is suspected that the woman may have sustained a head injury and multiple neck fractures from hitting the sandbank.

Lifeguards commented that conditions at Clarkes Beach on Friday were calm with a slight shore break and good visibility. The beach was calm as it was protected from the southerly swell but is an unpatrolled location.

INCIDENT 2 – Suffolk Park

At 2.30pm on Sunday 7 April, a 25 year-old woman was also pulled from the water unconscious at Suffolk Park by members of the public. A Surf Life Saving Far North Coast Duty Officer and an Ambulance attended the scene where the members of the public were performing CPR. The woman was transported to Byron Bay Hospital breathing but unconscious.

Suffolk Park is the middle of a 6.5km beach that runs on the southern side of Byron Bay and is not patrolled. It is classified as a hazardous surf beach with predominant rips and strong, unpredictable currents.

INCIDENT 3 – Clarkes Beach

Finally again at 9am on Monday 8 April, a man was found floating in the water at Clarkes Beach in front of the Kiosk. He was rescued by an off-duty Doctor and Anaesthetist who performed CPR on the beach until lifeguards arrived.

The man was transported by paramedics to the sporting fields where the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter transferred him to the Gold Coast University hospital. He remains in a critical condition.

Lifeguards commented that conditions at Clarke Beach on Monday were choppy with a strong northerly wind creating a dumping shore break also making it more prone to rips than normal.

ALS Lifeguard Supervisor Brent Lethbridge said, “We were lucky to have medical professionals on the beach at the time of all three incidents. It was a great cohesive effort between members of the public and our Lifeguards as well as the NSW Ambulance service, Paramedics and the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter.

“After Cyclone Oma hit last month there has been significant sand erosion on many beaches on the Far North Coast making them more hazardous than usual. The shape and movement of sand and water at Clarkes Beach has changed with a large shore break and steep drop off and unexpectedly shallow sandbanks in places.

Lethbridge emphasised the importance of swimming at a patrolled beach saying “If you’re swimming between the red and yellow flags and something does go wrong, help is right there.”

To find a patrolled location visit

*In 2018 44% of all coastal drowning deaths occurred less than 1km from lifesaving services. 


Wednesday 9 April 2019