Emergency services are warning people not to “go out of their depth” after a “busy” first weekend of summer for surf lifesavers across the state, including nine rescues at beaches in Newcastle, and at least one hospitalisation.
A total of 232 rescues took place along the coast of NSW on Saturday, December 1, and Sunday, December 2.
In the Hunter, ambulances were called to incidents at Redhead and Stockton.
A 55-year-old man was taken to John Hunter Hospital on Saturday with suspected spinal injuries after being dumped by a wave at Stockton Beach. Another man was attended to by paramedics at Redhead Beach with a suspected dislocated shoulder.
Hunter Surf Life Saving club president, Henry Scruton, said the weekend was not out of the ordinary for the region’s volunteers who performed a further four rescues at Merewether Beach, three at Newcastle Beach and two at Bar Beach.
“Unfortunately, that’s become a normal weekend,” he said.
“It really does depend on the weather. When we have a lot of holidaymakers they often are not as beach smart as the locals.
“It’s often the people from out of town that aren’t as smart about rips, currents and waves.”
Mr Scruton said it was important for residents to assess their own ability in the surf.
“Don’t go out of your depth, swim with a friend and always swim at a bay where there are lifesavers instructing,” he said.
“If the sea looks a bit cranky, go swim in the baths and if you get in trouble wave furiously.”
The Royal Life Saving Society is also reminding people of the dangers associated with swimming in rivers, lakes and dams after tragedy struck inland over the weekend.
Despite the “best efforts” of emergency services a man could not be revived after drowning in the Colo River in the Hawkesbury region on Sunday. Two children were taken to hospital after they were pulled from the water at Narrabeen Lagoon.
Over the past 15 years 25 drowning deaths have occurred in the Hunter’s rivers, creeks and streams, the majority in the Hunter River.
Driving non-aquatic vehicles, like driving cars into floodwater, was associated with a third of the deaths, while a fifth occurred after a person fell into the water.
Tanya Brunckhorst, the Hunter regional manager of Royal Life Saving, said the majority of people who drown in rivers and enclosed bodies of water are adults local to the area.
For this reason, she said it was important not to underestimate dangerous conditions.
“Often there are currents that you are not able to detect, objects lurking beneath surface. You can’t often see what’s beneath the surface,” she said.
“It’s not like at a beach where you can swim between the flags.”
She advised people participating in recreational activities on rivers or lakes not to drink alcohol or take drugs, be prepared for changes in conditions, don’t go alone, and “know how to save a life”.