The Royal Life Saving Society Australia is urging people to be safe around the water this summer. Picture: Stock Exchange
The Royal Life Saving Society Australia is urging people to be safe around the water this summer. Picture: Stock Exchange

Desperate plea for safety after man dies in boating incident

Police will prepare a report for the coroner into the death of a man in a boating incident at Airlie Beach on Monday.

The Birkdale man, 56, died at shore after being rescued from the water when bystanders reported seeing his tinny spiralling off Coral Sea Marina about 4.20pm.

The man is understood to have been unconscious when he was pulled from the water.

The circumstances surrounding the boating incident remain under investigation with police to prepare a report for the coroner.

The man’s death comes amid warnings from Royal Life Saving Society Australia on the dangers waterways present, with alarming figures revealing men are more likely to drown in largely avoidable incidents.

Ten people drowned in the Mackay region in the decade to June 30 last year, of which seven were men.

Alarmingly, the majority of all drowning victims were locals, suggesting a sense of complacency underpinned attitudes of swimmers, boaties and fishers, RLSSA education advisor Dr Shayne Baker said.

A Birkdale man, 56, died when he was pulled from the water off Coral Sea Marina at Airlie Beach about 4.20pm Monday, December 14.
A Birkdale man, 56, died when he was pulled from the water off Coral Sea Marina at Airlie Beach about 4.20pm Monday, December 14.

“The representation by males is actually a global figure in reality,” he said.

“Particularly males in the late adolescent, late 20s, age bracket.

“There seems to be an aversion to risk, the introduction of alcohol comes into it and despite the belief that alcohol makes them bigger and stronger, we know it’s actually the opposite.

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TRAGEDY: Man dies after Airlie Beach marina boating incident

“They totally underestimate their ability, distances – it’s a really high risk area, unfortunately.”

Three women and seven men drowned in the Mackay region in the data period, but a gender breakdown was not available for activities they were engaged in.

However, four people died in boating incidents, another two fell into the water, and one person drowned as a result of swimming, “non-aquatic transport”, bathing or some other activity.

Eight of the fatalities were residents local to the 4740 postcode, one was from intrastate and another was an international visitor.

Royal Life Saving Society of Australia national education and training advisor Dr Shayne Baker OAM.
Royal Life Saving Society of Australia national education and training advisor Dr Shayne Baker OAM.

“For an area that probably believes there is a lot of tourism which brings a lot of people from other areas, be it domestically or internationally, it probably comes as a bit of a surprise,” Dr Baker said.

“Most people involved in boating are quite prepared to spend a great deal of money because it is not a cheap recreation – it costs money and costs money to maintain it.

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“Most boats will have their personal flotation devices or life jackets but that’s sometimes an area where (people try to go for the cheap alternative).

“An unfortunately when they do that, there’s probably a tendency not to use it and they’re probably kept under the seat or somewhere else in the vessel.

“Ideally, if they spend a little more money and shop around, they can buy material they can wear as part of their normal attire – it works very well and is not bulky at all.

“If they put the same sort of effort and research into that, it could mean the difference between a drowning and a non-drowning.”

Dr Baker said that change in attitude should spill over to pool inflatables with parents urged to consider the type of toys bought for children.

“Toy manufacturers go to great lengths to make these things … and every year they seem to come up with new creatures and new enticements for those sorts of inflatables,” he said.

“The pink flamingoes were ones that you would often see going out to sea when the wind changes and, unfortunately if there is a child hanging on to it for dear life, it’s not a good look.

“If the child is not a strong swimmer, the child also needs to be fitted with some kind of flotation device to make them a lot safer than just trusting an inflatable toy that costs $10.

“I’m very concerned about that every Christmas.”

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The COVID-19 shutdown that cancelled swimming lessons across the country was a concern for RLSSA with fears complacency and a lack of confidence in the water could result in injuries, or death, for young swimmers.

Dr Baker said anecdotal reports suggested swimming lessons had been cut from household budgets, leaving children and new swimmers at risk of losing confidence and techniques.

“Swimming, if you don’t do it regularly and particularly with young children, they lose some of their skills, they gain some of their inhibitions and they’re not as confident,” Dr Baker said.

“So if it’s not through a structured swimming and water safety program, it’s something parents need to make sure their children are getting exposed to and have opportunities to practise their swimming skills.

“There’s a cost to it but it shouldn’t be one of those things that just drops off, especially if you’re going to be in and around the water in the summer time.”


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