Six-fold rise in water fatalities sparks warning

DROWNINGS have increased in the Western District during the past year, when six people lost their lives in the water.

The alarming statistics, released this week in Surf Life Saving Victoria’s annual drowning report, follow just one regional fatality in the previous 12 months. 

Warrnambool Surf Life Saving Club started patrols on the weekend and has already been busy. 

Club president Michael Owen said lifesavers were keeping an eye on a rip west of the club building. 

“It’s hard to identify and we’ve had some people get into trouble there,” he said. 

The state report found: 

. 41 people drowned in Victoria over 2012-2013. 

. Men are four times more likely to drown; 32 men drowned over the year compared to just nine women. 

. More than half of drownings happened in the ocean — a reversal on the trend of inland waterway deaths. 

. Alcohol was a factor in nine deaths, or 22 per cent. 

. There were 89 near-fatal incidents involving hospitalisation.  For every drowning death there are three near-misses, according to  Surf Life Saving Victoria. 

Mr Owen said the basic message of swimming between the flags was still the best way of avoiding trouble at the beach. 

The club will soon have an extra four-wheel beach vehicle to patrol Stingray Bay during the holidays. 

Mr Owen said visitors to the city remained the most vulnerable in the water. He said it was up to locals to share knowledge with those unfamiliar to the area. 

“If you see someone going in an area where they shouldn’t be, it may be a good idea to let them know,” Mr Owen said. 

“If you see someone in trouble or something suspicious don’t assume we’ve seen it ... we’re relying on the public to let us know.” 

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