Young men most at risk of drowning

Warning: Echuca Moama Search and Rescue has issued a warning for people not to jump from the bridges which are located across the Murray River and its tributaries.

On the eve of Australia Day celebrations, the Royal Life Saving Society has issued a warning that young Australian men are the most at risk of drowning this summer.

A statement from the authority explains that since December 1 last year, 50 Australians have drowned in waterways across Australia — up from 46 for the same time period last summer.

Echuca Moama Search and Rescue president James Mackenzie Ross explained that when there was a “bit of alcohol and peer pressure” in the mix, people tended to make dangerous decisions.

Alcohol and water don’t mix: This is Echuca Moama Search and Rescue president James MacKenzie Ross’ message for Australia Day revellers. Photo by Cath Grey

“Many people don’t realise the dangers around water and probably more so when they’re drinking. Alcohol just makes people less aware of the precautions,” he said.

“Alcohol and swimming don’t really mix. Unless you’re sober, don’t go in the water.”

As for safety tips, he said people should try not to swim alone and always keep their children at arm’s reach.

“Probably the biggest message we try to get out to people is always wear a lifejacket, whether you’re swimming or boating.”

One of the biggest causes of drowning in the Echuca-Moama region is once people jump off the roof of houseboats, or off Echuca-Moama’s Murray River bridge, into the river.

Echuca Moama Search and Rescue, which is currently looking for volunteers, is concerned that with the opening of the second bridge they will be called out to drowning incidents more frequently.

Recently they attended an incident after a person jumped off the new bridge.

“Thankfully, the person was not fatally injured,” Mr Ross said.

Mr Ross said the main thing people needed to focus on was water safety.

“If people want to teach their kids about water safety, we’re more than happy to do that and show people how to put life jackets on.”

Almost a quarter of the summer’s fatal drownings have been young men.

Males aged from 18 to 34 are at the highest risk of drowning this summer.

The data is being used as part of the Make the Right Call campaign.

The campaign aims to reach out to men who plan on drinking alcohol while near the water and asks them to think about their surroundings.

It also asks men to think about their mates before cracking a beer open.

Royal Life Saving Society chief executive Justin Scarr has led a plea for young men to be more careful around water, particularly during public holidays like Australia Day, falling on Wednesday.

“We know that drinking alcohol around water can be lethal and that it is a key risk factor for young men … research shows that 33 per cent of young men drown with alcohol in their system, with over half being intoxicated at the time of drowning.”

“More than 40 per cent of the young men who drowned this summer were swimming at the time, but 33 per cent died after falling into water.”

“Royal Life Saving wants everyone enjoying the water and to get home safely to their loved ones. So please hold off having a beer until after you’ve been in the water.”

Further research published in the society’s statement reveals that the most common area for drownings in Victoria and New South Wales is along the Murray River with particular “hotspots near Albury, Corowa, Moama, Mildura, Echuca and Murray Bridge.”

The summer drowning toll will be accessible and regularly updated on the Royal Life Saving website.