Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Murray River the worst for drownings: report

The Royal Life Saving Society Australia’s full 10-year review into drownings across waterways in Australia has been released.

RENEE THOMPSON May 23, 2014 8:42am

Police and emergency services investigate a drowning on the Murray River earlier this year.

The Murray River is officially the worst river for drownings in Australia.

It is one of the major findings of Royal Life Saving Society Australia’s full 10-year review into drownings across waterways in Australia, released this week.

A total of 735 people died in rivers from 2002 to 2012, accounting for one in four overall drowning deaths for the review period.

The Echuca-Moama community has been no stranger to river deaths.

Tim Gaylard, 27, of Colac, was swimming with family and friends near Moama beach in February when he disappeared near the Echuca-Moama bridge about 6.30pm.

A search was carried out, but he was not found until 10am the following day.

A second man, Stephen Treacy, 49, died after falling from a houseboat while on holiday with friends near Echuca. Friends raised the alarm after failing to find him.

A NSW coroner has yet to determine whether drowning was the official cause of death in each case.

According to the Rpyal Life Saving Society report, rivers had the highest number of drowning deaths of any aquatic location, with oceans, beaches and swimming pools coming in second, third and fourth highest respectively.

Of the rivers, the Murray River was the single river system with the highest number of drownings in the 10-year period, with 43 deaths.

Royal Life Saving Society’s Riverina regional manager Michael Dasey said there were still some interesting findings particular to the Murray River, including the finding men were much more likely to drown than women.

‘‘On average, there was an 80/20 gender split in (total) river drownings with males accounting for the majority,’’ he said.

‘‘However on the Murray River the figures were much higher, with males representing 91 per cent of drownings.’’

On the Murray, ‘‘about 28 per cent’’ of drownings were as a result of using watercraft, he said.

Mr Dasey said other rivers did not have such a high percentage of deaths because of watercraft, with drownings more likely to have occurred while swimming, for example.

He said one of the explanations for the different Murray data likely had to do with the diversity of its users and its length.

‘‘If you look at the Murray River, what is one of the defining things? It is a waterway used by multiple watercraft, including riverboats, paddelsteamers and waterskiers,’’ Mr Dasey said.

‘‘Other waterways are not like this. Because the Murray River is the longest river in Australia, it traverses distinct differences in population.’’

The Murray was commonly frequented by transient populations of people, such as workers and tourists perhaps not used to rivers, he said.

Part of the report’s recommendations was to educate such populations about river safety being just as important as beach and dam safety, he said.

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