Bondi View

Safety first at Bondi

Lifesavers at Bondi Beach on Saturday / Photo: Joanna Kelly

Waverley Mayor Sally Betts has called for a review of beach safety signage at Bondi ahead of the 2013 summer season.

The move comes in response to the devastating incident on November 4, where a 22-year-old Japanese man went missing in heavy surf conditions at Bondi Beach.

“We have had a tragic [incident] at Bondi,” Ms Betts said. “[A] young innocent person lost their life just having a swim.

“[The sea] can be treacherous in bad weather and it’s really important that people understand the signage [and] swim between the flags. We will, as we always do, have a look at our signage and see how we can make it better.”

Bondi lifeguard Terry McDermott said the surf life saving team were working diligently to find the missing body, with police and water police co-ordinating the search and rescue operation, with an ambulance on standby.

“We’ve been looking day in, day out, trying to find him,” he said. “It’s been hard for all of us.”

Ms Betts said Council will do all it can to locate the missing body and pay its respects to the family of the young man who went missing after rough conditions broke out at 5.30pm at Bondi.

“We understand he was living locally and went swimming with his friend,” she said. “We are obviously hoping the body will be found very soon.”

According to Royal Lifesaving NSW, almost a third of all drowning deaths in NSW have resulted from people swimming after drinking alcohol. Royal Lifesaving NSW CEO David McAllister said risk-taking behaviour at the beach was irresponsible and dangerous, especially when alcohol was consumed.

“Even small amounts of alcohol inhibit coordination, impair reaction times and judgment, disturb your balance, cause disorientation and remove your inhibitions,” he said.

“In the worst-case scenario, it can also cause hypothermia and a reflexive closure of your windpipe.”

Michael Gallacher, the NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services, said this summer season over 21,000 volunteer surf lifesavers will hit beaches across the state, patrolling on weekends and public holidays until the end of April 2014.

“Last year just under 4,000 lives were saved while over 18,000 people were treated for first aid from volunteer surf lifesavers along our coastline,” Mr Gallacher said. “When anyone puts their hand up in the water, it’s our surf lifesavers who respond to that call for help.”

Ms Betts acknowledged the difficult work of the lifeguards and said Bondi was a beach numbering over 50,000 people on a daily basis.

“I think the last person who drowned was a doctor in 2007 but before that it was ages and ages ago,” she said. “We have five million swimmers a year – it’s a lot, [but] we have very, very few [incidents like these].”

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