News National Spotlight on dangerous surf rescue missions, as families reel from Easter drownings

Spotlight on dangerous surf rescue missions, as families reel from Easter drownings

Gigantic waves pound the Victorian coast where two rescuers lost their lives. Photo: ABC
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A coastguard skipper involved in the attempted rescue of a father and son who drowned in an Easter Sunday tragedy says authorities need a better plan for responding to dangerous surf rescue missions.

It comes after seven people drowned across Australia during the long weekend, including the death of a father and daughter in South Australia during what lifesavers say has been the state’s worst summer period on record.

Alarmingly, an astounding 274 people were rescued in New South Wales over the long weekend alone – nearly half the number of total rescues performed in Victoria over the entire summer period (523).

In an incident that beggars belief, lifesavers at South Australia’s Port Noarlunga were left frustrated by tourists on blow-up flamingoes who refused to return to shore despite warnings a shark was circling near the reef.

Authorities fear beachgoers are not taking safety warnings seriously.

It follows a warning by authorities last week that Australians are twice more likely to drown on a public holiday than on any other days of the year.

Meanwhile, the Port Campbell community in south-west Victoria is mourning the loss of 32-year-old Andy Powell and his 71-year-old father Ross Powell, who both drowned when their rescue boat flipped in the surf while attempting to save a tourist who was swept off the rocks

Ross and Andy Powell
Ross Powell, 71, and son Andy, 32, will be remembered for their kind hearts and years of community service in Port Campbell. Photo: Facebook

Deputy Flotilla Commander Keith Priest was part of the Warrnambool coastguard crew sent out to help with the rescue operation, before he was turned back by authorities hours later.

Mr Priest told ABC South West Victoria that there needed to be a clear strategy when conducting rescues in treacherous waters.

“Where people do go in the water and they fish and they dive… the strategies are far from clear (as) to the best way to approach it,” Mr Priest said.

“It might be different on every occasion, but maybe that’s the sort of thing that needs to be discussed.”

The Twelve Apostles at the Port Campbell National Park are a popular tourist destination in Victoria. Photo: Getty

In a separate incident on Easter Sunday, a father and daughter died in a boating accident in South Australia after being hit by a freak wave on a rocky outcrop.

The 35-year-old man and his five-year-old daughter were taking photographs at Cape Carnot when they were swept into the ocean.

The co-owner of the popular but treacherous tourist hotspot along the rugged stretch of coastline is now considering blocking access to the site.

In Queensland, a 28-year-old man was found dead after he went kayaking on Sunday morning in Tallebudgera Creek on the Gold Coast.

The man has been identified as Chris Dicker, much-loved coach of the Coombabah Clippers basketball team.

Chris Dicker
The Coombabah Clippers basketball club is mourning the loss of its beloved coach Chris Dicker. Photo: Facebook

Two men also lost their lives in New South Wales.

One was a fisherman in a boat who suffered a cardiac arrest at Gerringong, and another was a surfer at Nobbys Beach in Newcastle.

Dangerous surf conditions in Queensland saw 196 people rescued by lifesavers over the Easter break, with 75 rescued at beaches along the Sunshine Coast.

Of those, 50 were rescued at Noosa beach, a popular tourist hotspot.

Sunshine Coast lifesaving services co-ordinator Jacob Thomson said the challenging surf conditions caught many people off guard, especially tourists.

“We had a 52-year-old woman pulled from the water in Noosa, who was conscious but having difficulty breathing,” Mr Thomson told The New Daily.

“Given the strong winds, we also had a few bluebottle jellyfish right across the coast.”

The latest figures from Surf Life Saving Queensland show 14 people were stung by bluebottle jellyfish at Coolum, two stung at Kurrawa and 23 stung at Kings Beach in Caloundra.

But bluebottle jellyfish were no match compared to the shark seen at a beach in South Australia.

Surf Life Saving South Australia acting lifesaving manager Melissa Davis-Bishop said lifesavers had to rescue multiple people at Port Noarlunga after a shark was spotted near the reef.

“There were lots of people snorkelling and diving, and multiple people on blow-up inflatable flamingoes and swans – some of whom refused to return to the shore even though there was a shark sighting,” Ms Davis-Bishop said.

“This summer period has been the worst that it has been in the 15 years since we’ve been keeping these records, with males overrepresented in the drowning victims total.”

For the latest information about hazards at beaches around Australia, visit Beach Safe.

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