Some of Australia’s most popular Easter camping spots have been named among the nation’s top danger zones for drowning.
Year after year, river rescue volunteers take on the grim task of searching for the bodies of loved ones missing in our waterways.
While being a good swimmer can help reduce the risk of drowning, sometimes it isn’t enough to survive – a fact that Melbourne widow Fleur Abd-el-kaddous sadly knows all too well.
Ms Abd-el-kaddous’ husband Peter tragically slipped through her fingers and drowned in a deep section of the Murrumbidgee River near Wagga Wagga in January, 2017.
“There no was problem with his swimming abilities – he was probably a better swimmer than me,” Ms Abd-el-kaddous told The New Daily.
“When he jumped in after me, he put his head under and the cold water shock constricted his lungs and he couldn’t breathe.”
In a desperate attempt to save her husband, Ms Abd-el-kaddous tried to push him up out of the water and onto the river bank so he could catch his breath.
But within minutes, he slipped from her hands one last time.
“It all happened so quickly,” Ms Abd-el-kaddous said.
“My advice to people is definitely to acclimatise before you get in the water… and to swim in the current, because that’s where the water is the most shallow.
“If I can help one family or one person to think about what they’re doing before they jump in, then his death is not in vain.”
Sadly, the story of Ms Abd-el-kaddous is a familiar one to many Australian families.
Shocking new research shows that Australians are twice more likely to drown on a public holiday than on any other days of the year.
A major reason for this is because too many people make the dangerous decision to enter waterways after drinking alcohol, with men four times more likely to drown than women.
The worst spot for drowning deaths is the Murray River, along the border of Victoria and New South Wales, as shown by research released by Royal Life Saving Australia.
Albury and Border Rescue Squad captain Paul Marshall said alcohol-related drowning incidents were becoming increasingly more prevalent along the Murray River around Easter time.
“A lot of people love to drink alcohol and float from Mungabareena to Noreuil,” Captain Marshall told The New Daily.
“But there are a lot of hidden dangers in the Murray River, it’s forever changing and there is always stuff moving.”
The experienced water safety expert said that aside from the dangerous combination of waterways and alcohol, people often underestimated the time taken to float from one checkpoint to another.
“People will do the float and expect to come in at six o’clock, and by 10 o’clock they’re still not home and it’s pitch black and they don’t know where they are,” Captain Marshall said.
Another risk threatening to ruin the Easter holidays for families around Australia was the danger of stumbling upon hidden objects lurking beneath the water’s surface.
“I can think of a few incidents where people are permanently in wheelchairs after jumping off or swinging into rivers,” Captain Marshall said.
“One boy jumped off a bridge into the Murray River and landed on a stolen vespa that had been dumped – the handlebar took off a big chunk of his leg.”
This summer, 144 drowning deaths were recorded by the Royal Life Saving National Summer Drowning Toll.
Royal Life Saving Society Australia CEO Justin Scarr urged Australian families getting away for the Easter long weekend to take care around water at all times.
“Always remember that water conditions can change hourly and that the majority of these areas are not patrolled by lifeguards,” Mr Scarr said.
Warmer-than-average temperatures are set to continue around Australia over the Easter weekend, with Darwin expected to hit 33 degrees Celsius and Brisbane a top of 27.
Melbourne is forecast to reach a peak of 27 degrees Celsius on Saturday, and Sydney and Canberra temperatures are expected to hover around the mid-20s all weekend.
Perth is expected to be the coolest major city with a top of 18 degrees Celsius.
Meanwhile, Adelaide is forecast to reach a top of 32, and Hobart, 22.