Australians drowned at a rate of almost one a day this summer, with middle-aged men the most likely to die.
Startling figures from Royal Life Saving Australia show there were 86 deaths across the nation in the 90 days of summer that ended on February 28.
That’s up 30 per cent on the previous summer, during a time when coronavirus forced Australians to abandon overseas travel, holiday at home, and explore their own backyards for recreation.
Once more males accounted for the vast bulk of drownings at Australian beaches, inland waterways including rives and lakes, and public and private swimming pools.
Of the 86 deaths, 69 involved males, a consistent, long-term trend in Australia’s drowning statistics.
Men aged 35-64 accounted for close to half of all the deaths (40 per cent), and men aged 18-34, a third (29 per cent). The report did not attempt to explain why the gender gap on drownings is so vast.
Almost 60 per cent of the drownings happened at beaches, about 30 per cent in inland waterways, and 10 per cent in public and home swimming pools.
A third of the drownings were people who’d been swimming or engaged in other water recreations. About 15 per cent of the deaths involved boats or other craft.
And about a third resulted from “other” pursuits, including fishing, rock fishing, jumping into water and attempting rescues.
Surf Life Saving Australia says the 49 coastal drownings should serve as a warning for swimmers to seek out patrolled beaches and always swim between the flags.
Of those 49 deaths, 35 occurred more than 1km away from a surf lifesaving service.
The service has appealed to people to educate themselves about the places they plan to swim, understand their own limitations, and only venture into the water at patrolled sites.
This summer’s drownings included five deaths, just a few weeks apart, in the same area near Port Kembla, south of Sydney.
In mid-February two fishermen, aged 31 and 38, were swept off rocks near Hill 60 Lookout. Both drowned. A third fisherman, 42, was also knocked into the sea but survived.
Just three weeks earlier three other men – two in their 40s, and one aged 69 – drowned. They had been with a group of people standing on the rocks when a large wave hit and swept them into the surf.