Coroner: more education needed on beach dangers

A CORONIAL inquest into a drowning near Lorne has reiterated concerns raised in the wake of the 2005 Stingray Bay drownings.

Coroner Ron Saines, who regularly sits as a magistrate in Warrnambool courts, called for greater public awareness of beach dangers after the death of Cambodian-born 61-year-old San De Montero on March 9 last year at St Georges River, near Lorne.

Mr Saines said steps needed to be taken to better educate the public about the risks of swimming in the ocean.

Previously,  coroner Phil Byrne raised similar concerns during an inquest into the deaths of five members of a family at Warrnambool’s Stringray Bay on January 2, 2005, when they were washed out to sea.

Mr Saines reiterated those concerns during the inquest into Mr De Montero’s death. 

Mr De Montero drowned in the ocean at St Georges River after his 12-year-old son got into difficulties.

Mr Saines said other than the prompt action of a rescuer and emergency services, the incident would most likely have resulted in a double fatality.

He said Mr De Montero and his family walked past a prominent sign containing information and warnings about the ocean conditions and that lifesaving services were three kilometres away at Lorne. 

Mr Saines said the sign and the site should be reviewed.

But he said that even if signs at beaches were larger, brighter, placed more frequently or use stronger warnings they would not lift safety or avoid deaths unless people took in that information.

“It is disturbing that there have been a multiplicity of coronial findings concluded in Victoria where drownings have occurred after people have walked past signs notifying of risks and dangers and have done so without looking at or in any way heeding their message,” he said.

Mr Saines said it was important that further steps were taken to educate the public about the risks of drowning.

The coroner said the need for great awareness and caution was higher in Victoria due to changing cultural and ethnic demography.


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