Swimmers flout danger at idyllic scene of death of five

SWIMMERS are risking their lives by ignoring warning signs at Warrnambool’s idyllic Stingray Bay, the scene of the tragic death of five tourists almost 12 years ago. 

The picture taken on Wednesday by The Standard photographer Rob Gunstone shows bathers in the exact spot where a Ballarat family’s trip to the beach turned to disaster in 2005.

Shane Burrell, 31, his mother Cheryl, 54, sister Joanne, 25, and her children Tahneisha, 5, and Cody, 7, died when the family were swept out through a channel into the open sea. 

David Owen

David Owen

Lifeguards have renewed calls for holiday-makers and locals alike to always swim at a patrolled beach.

Warrnambool Surf Life Saving Club captain David Owen said Stingray Bay was not as safe as it looked.

“It may look benign, but in actual fact you have a river running through there,” he said. “It’s quite a strong surge of water going out to sea. It’s nowhere near as safe as it looks. The island is out of bounds and the beach is not patrolled, it’s as simple as that.”

Mr Owen said the safest beach to swim at is Warrnambool’s main beach, in front of the surf club tower, between the flags.

“We have our eyes on people there,” he said. “Make the effort and come up to the surf club. It’s not that far away.” 

Lifesaving Victoria lifeguard Chris Sharam said there were no first aid incidents or rescues on Wednesday, with thousands of people flocking to the beach on a day when the temperature reached 38C.