Mar 15, 2024

The importance of water safety highlighted after a man in his 70s drowned in NSW

Cabbage Tree Beach
The normally picturesque Cabbage Tree Beach turned into a tragic scene following the death of a man in his 70s. [Source: Love Central Coast]

The drowning death of an older man in New South Wales’ Central Coast has prompted renewed warnings for beach safety and awareness after he was found unresponsive in the water while swimming on his own.

The local Surf Life Saving team, police and paramedics were quick to respond to reports of an incident at Cabbage Tree Harbour, a beach roughly halfway between Sydney and Newcastle, at 9.45am on Wednesday.

A man aged in his 70s – who remains unidentified to the public – had encountered trouble in the surf, although it’s unclear exactly what led to this.

Drowning statistics

  • Roughly 281 drowning deaths occurred in 2022/23, according to the Royal Surf Life Saving’s National Drowning Report 2023, reflective of the 10-year average (279)
  • The majority of deaths, 57%, were adults aged 45 and older, with men accounting for 77% of all drowning deaths for people aged 65 and older
  • Most people aged 65 and older who drown also have a pre-existing medical condition that may or may not contribute to their death

While the man was promptly pulled from the water, both paramedics and Surf Life Savers performed CPR but he could not be revived.

New South Wales Police are investigating the cause of the incident, which is also the second drowning-related death in NSW this week. A 59-year-old man was pulled unconscious from the water at Byron Bay and later died from his injuries in hospital.

Statistically, three out of every four beach-related deaths are caused by rips – a strong and narrow current. Chris Jacobsen, Chair of lifesaving at Surf Life Saving Australia, told ABC it’s important to swim in between designated safety zones between red and yellow flags because of the unknown dangers in the water.

“People aren’t aware of the rips. When we go out there and we ask people how to identify a rip, some people think they can but they actually can’t,” he said.

“There’s a lot more work we need to do and Australia needs to do in identifying rips, and [teaching] what to do when you are in trouble, because this is something that we can prevent.

“That’s what’s really alarming about these statistics – all these drownings are preventable.”

It has been a heartbreaking summer period for NSW beachgoers which included a tragic nine water-related deaths within two weeks of Christmas. Nationally, close to 100 people drowned over summer, while a whopping 25,000 first aid treatments were required from lifesavers and lifeguards. 

Royal Life Saving NSW has campaigned for increased water safety awareness over the last few months, with Active Adults directed at safe participation in water activities. This includes fishing, swimming or just being around the water. 

“By partnering with Royal Life Saving NSW on this campaign, the Government wants to amplify the message that water recreation is a great way to stay active and fit, while emphasising that water safety must remain top of mind for people of all ages, especially for our seniors,” NSW  State Minister for Seniors, Jodie Harrison, said.

“There’s been a concerning increase in drowning deaths in older people and we want to make sure our seniors can enjoy the water safely – whether it is participating in watersport or simply walking around it.”

For more information on how to stay safe in the water, read our article, ‘Active Adults campaign wants you to know you’re never too old for water safety’.

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