Worst drowning season on record for Queensland beaches
IT IS a record not made to be broken.
As volunteer surf lifesavers brace for a flood of holiday makers, News Queensland can reveal this is the worst season on record for beach drownings.
Nine people have died at Queensland beaches since July - the worst start to a season since Surf Life Saving Queensland started tracking such data nearly 15 years ago.
While some of the deaths are still the subject of coronial investigations, the number dwarfs the figure for the corresponding period last year (just two), and is significantly higher than any period on record.
In the past five months, there have been four fatalities in Far North Queensland (two on Green Island and one each on Trinity Beach and Fitzroy Island); four across the Sunshine Coast (three at Noosa and one at Currimundi) and one at Horseshoe Bay near Townsville.
From tomorrow, Surf Life Saving Queensland will be extending patrol hours across the state, along with increased jet ski and helicopter surveillance patrols, as lifesavers look to ramp up safety ahead of the peak summer holidays.
With the majority of fatalities occurred at unpatrolled beaches or outside designated patrol
hours, SLSQ lifesaving services manager Peta Lawlor said it had never been more relevant to adhere to the time-honoured message to swim between the flags.
"Unfortunately people are continuing to put their own lives at risk by entering the surf at night or outside of the flags and the devastating reality is, not everyone makes it back safely," she said.
"Sometimes we see a strong trend or common thread linking fatalities together, but it hasn't been the case so far this season, with people from all backgrounds and all walks of life tragically losing their lives.
"If anything, it's a heartbreaking reminder that anyone at any time can get into trouble if they're not putting safety first.
"It might be a flash rip, a dumping wave or even a heart attack in the water, but if you run into trouble, the chances of survival are significantly reduced if you're not swimming at a patrolled beach near surf lifesavers or lifeguards."
Ms Lawlor called on beachgoers to help out by exercising caution this summer.
"It doesn't matter how competent you are in the surf, the ocean can be extremely unpredictable," she said.
"We're pleading with all beachgoers to put safety first, exercise caution in and around the water, and only swim between the red and yellow flags."
Only six people drowned at Queensland beaches for the entire 2016-17 financial year and just three the year before that.