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MAROUBRA DROWNINGS A REMINDER OF THE IMPORTANCE OF BEACH SAFETY

By Madeleine Gray on April 6, 2017 in News

Pictured: Maroubra drowning victim Shristi Bhandari

Pictured: Maroubra drowning victim Shristi Bhandari

Growing up by the beach, we learn from a young age that the ocean is to be both respected and feared. However, for those whose formative years have not been spent getting salty at the Bogey Hole, the beach is a much more unfamiliar entity – and things that seem obvious to us (dive under massive waves, don’t swim at night, etc.) cannot be assumed knowledge.

Further, for holidaymakers who either do not speak English or speak English as a second language, there is the risk that safety signs specifying conditions particular to each beach will go unnoticed.

Devastatingly, Maroubra Beach has, in recent months, experienced the worst possible outcome of these dangers. Since December 2016, three individuals have drowned at Maroubra Beach.

Fourteen-year-old Aussie-Tongan Tuipulotu ‘Tui’ Gallaher drowned after going for a nighttime swim with his cousin at the southern end of the beach. Tui lived with his family in Guildford, in Sydney’s west, and was on a day trip to the beach. Similarly, friends Sudeep Uprety, 26, and Shristi Bhandari, 23, drowned after partaking in an evening swim at the beach. Ms. Bhandri was an international student from Nepal who had arrived in Sydney only two weeks prior, and Mr. Uprety was also a Nepalese national.

Club Captain of the Maroubra SLSC, Gilbert Olzomer, said that the most pertinent connection between these fatalities is the time of day at which they occurred.

“It is important to note that all these drownings occurred in the late evening, in dangerous surf conditions, and in low light at a time when the services of lifeguards are no longer provided,” Mr. Olzomer said.

“The safe areas to swim are not obvious to inexperienced swimmers at this time of day and hence swimmers can find themselves in great difficulty very quickly with no lifesaving services on hand to assist.

“We strongly recommend that swimmers do not swim at unpatrolled beaches or after the flags have come down.”

Asked whether Maroubra Beach itself is a particularly dangerous swimming spot, Mr Olzomer confirmed to inexperienced swimmers it most certainly can be.

“Maroubra Beach is at times very dangerous as it lies unprotected and exposed to swell from the north east, east and south east,” he said.

“The beach will often have a double sand bank, which means that waves will break a long way out, then reform in deeper water before breaking again very close to the shore.

“The danger is that swimmers can be caught unaware in deep water close to the shore, which is often the beginning of the rip.”

The Maroubra SLSC provides free presentations to schools and international tour groups on beach safety. These talks can be arranged by emailing maroubra@bigpond.net.au. The club is also making an educational video in conjunction with the Nepalese Student Association of Australia in which beach safety resources will be promoted to international students.

We can only hope that these recent fatalities remind beachgoers that though they might be strong, the ocean is stronger. Always swim between the flags.

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