Australia

Easter drowning toll reaches seven, including two lifesavers

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With seven deaths in Australian waters reported this weekend, the head of Surf Live Saving NSW said the statistics had been 'horrendous' and warned people to be cautious.

Seven people, including two lifesavers, have died this long Easter weekend around Australia.

Authorities said there were close to an additional 300 rescues by lifesavers in the past few days.  

The chief executive of Surf Life Saving NSW Steven Pearce told SBS News the statistics were dreadful.

“It’s been a horrendous drowning toll in all states across Australia”, Mr Pearce said.

“Here in NSW, we had two separate drownings, one at Gerringong, a fisherman in a boat that had a cardiac arrest, and later a surfer at Nobby’s beach in Newcastle, who also got into difficulty.

“In Victoria, we’ve lost two lifesavers, which is reverberating right across the entire lifesaving community; and our hearts and condolences are really going out to the families and guards down there."

Victorian lifesavers, 71-year-old Ross Powell and his 32-year-old son, Andy Powell, tried to rescue a tourist who got into difficulties on Sunday morning.

The dairy farmers had been on a rescue mission for a 30-year-old male tourist who had been wading in dangerous waters at the mouth of the Sherbrook River.

Their rescue boat flipped in the two-metre swell.

The tourist and a third rescuer were winched from the water and transported to the hospital, but the Powells died at the scene.

Corangamite Mayor Neil Trotter - who knew Ross all his life and Andy "since he was a baby" - said the tight-knit Port Campbell community was "shattered".

Surf Lifesaving Victoria president Paul James called the pair heroes.

"It's just terrible, it's heartbreaking," he told reporters.

"I understand the boat was operating in a two-metre swell, so a very high swell, and we know that it is very treacherous down there and not the place to be swimming."

A father and daughter were swept off rocks near Whaler's Way Sanctuary at the Eyre Peninsula on Sunday afternoon.

A body of a missing kayaker was also found in Queensland.

Dangerous territory

According to Surf Lifesaving NSW chief executive Steven Pearce a last flurry of people came to the country’s many beaches this Easter weekend to enjoy the warm weather.

“In the Easter long weekend we had so many more rescues because that’s predominantly from people, holidaymakers, who go to other destinations and they are not familiar with those water conditions,” Mr Pearce said.

“They are not familiar with what’s dangerous and what’s not; we had some fantastic weather, so it’s the last hit of summer and everyone is trying to make the most of it and head to the coastline.

“On the coast of Victoria and South Australia there have been very large seas and that’s made it exceptionally dangerous for people; in NSW it has not been as large, but it’s been still tricky,” he added.

Royal Life Saving Australia’s Amy Peden said Australians are more likely to drown on a public holiday than any other day of the year.

"People are off work, kids are not at school, there's more time to recreate in and around the water, people might be going to unfamiliar aquatic locations because they're on holiday as well,“ she said.

“People tend to potentially drink a little bit more as well because we see the risk of drowning, where it involves alcohol, is also quite high on public holidays compared to drownings on non-public holidays."

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