Naive swimmers risk lives in water

HUNTER  holidaymakers are risking  lives because they are not taking proper safety precautions over summer.

Experts have warned people are putting themselves and their children at risk of injury or even death in the surf, on the sand dunes, at the skate ramp, while out sailing and in the bush.

The warning follows a spate of drownings in NSW this summer and a case in the Blue Mountains where a rescued man was fined because he was so ill-prepared for a bush walk.

Hunter Surf Life Saving said it was troubled by the number  of swimmers who were entering the water where there was a rip, jumping off rocks, swimming drunk and taking to the water in unseaworthy water craft.

President Henry Scruton said swimmers often mistook rips for calm water and used that spot to enter the surf.

‘‘It’s calm because the undertow is dragging everyone out, that’s the worst place,’’ he said.

Lifesavers frequently have to rescue people who jumped off rocks at the Bogey Hole and north of Cooks Hill without realising the danger.

‘‘Some people also just go out too far and need us to go out and get them,’’ he said.

‘‘Baggy clothing in the surf also makes its hard for a person to swim normally [and] once inebriated, people will also think they still have the ability to swim.’’

Mr Scruton said swimmers should always swim between the flags, obey lifesavers’ instructions, swim with a buddy and during the day.

People should also remember to wear sunscreen and not over exert themselves while exercising on the sand.

‘‘Some people do come to the beach to exercise and are not as fit as they thought they were. They do get a little heat-affected,’’ he said.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service reported  this week that a motorist got bogged in the Stockton sand dunes and found themselves at the mercy of the incoming high tide because they did not leave a two-hour safety ‘‘window’’ of escape.

Campers often put out fires just by covering them with sand, which then became a  hazard for others walking barefoot. Senior ranger Leanne Ellis said holidaymakers should  remember that  road rules still applied on the sand dunes.

‘‘Drive safely and according to conditions, and the capability of your vehicle,’’ she said.

Mobile phone coverage could be irregular in remote areas and there could be rapidly changing weather conditions in the sub-alpine Barrington Tops, she warned.

Unit commander of the Marine Rescue service at Lake Macquarie  John Hatton said there had been a lot of boats on the lake this summer, including 1000 on Boxing Day.

Crews rescued a holidaymaker who got lost on the lake at 2am on New Year’s Eve.

‘‘He didn’t know the lake, he had no map, no chart and no idea where he was going,’’ Mr Hatton said.

 Another boat became swamped offshore and a 12-year-old boy was saved thanks to his lifejacket.

Mr Hatton said people should always wear lifejackets, take a communication device with emergency contact numbers, an anchor and line, a second means of propulsion and notify Marine Rescue of their planned movements if heading offshore.

‘‘When the winds come up the lake can be quite dangerous,’’ Mr Hatton said.

‘‘If there’s a yacht race go around it, not through it.’’

Mr Hatton said it was also important for boaties to contact Marine Rescue if they broke down because volunteers kept abreast of weather systems.

Boaters should also take care at boat ramps and take children out of boats before bringing them in,  be aware of wash from passing boats and not block people in at car parks.

Summer fun puts many in hospital

JOHN Hunter Hospital had a near record number of presentations – 254 – on New Year’s Day.

Emergency director Dr Mark Lee said it included patients coming off jetskis, bicycles, trampolines and motorbikes, plus alcohol-related falls and assaults.

Hospital trauma specialists said injuries from quad bike accidents in the Stockton dunes were common, as were injuries suffered at skate ramps.

Trauma clinical nurse consultant Julie Evans said she saw children and teens ‘‘a couple of times a week’’ who had been injured skating and blading without a helmet or protective gear or who were wearing an ill-fitting helmet.

She said people tended to flick their head back or put their hands out when they fell, leading to injuries such as concussion, laceration, intracerebral bleeding, fractured skulls and, most commonly, broken wrists.

‘‘Even through two broken wrists doesn’t sound like much... the long term functional outcomes of those injuries are quite serious.’’

Many teens would not wear a helmet for fear of looking uncool.

‘‘Because it’s not mandatory, I think some parents think that because their kids don’t have to they won’t make them,’’ she said.

Under NSW law, bicycle riders of all ages must wear helmets but the government only advises scooter, skateboard and rollerblade riders to wear protective gear.

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