Flags a lifesaver at Narooma surf beach

SURF patrol volunteer lifeguards on duty on Narooma surf beach on Sunday morning sprang into action when a teenage girl from Melbourne lost consciousness out in the breakers.

She was brought to shore, receiving first aid until Ambulance paramedics arrived and stabilised the young woman.

VRA rescue squad members then assisted carrying her off the beach into the ambulance to be taken to Moruya Hospital for treatment.

The young swimmer was indeed fortunate that her family chose to swim between the flags that morning and the incident comes just as Surf Life Saving Australia has announced a landmark study into drowning deaths on the Far South Coast.

There have been 11 deaths by drowning in the Bega Valley Shire since 2004 alone and there will be a series of meetings to discuss ideas including one at the Bermagui surf club.

It is hoped any recommendations can be applied to beaches up and down the coast.

Coincidentally, the president of Surf Life Saving Australia Graham Ford dropped in unannounced at the Narooma club as the patrol was setting up and Nippers were assembling on Sunday morning.

A member of Bronte surf club, he regularly holidays in Narooma and wanted to check out the club and congratulate the team that went undefeated in the recent George Bass Surfboat Marathon.

Nippers then got underway and the beach was packed with local youngsters and holidaymakers taking advantage of the warm, sunny and calm conditions.

The four volunteer lifeguards on duty got set for their long eight-hour patrol.

It was around 10.30am when the young woman got into difficulty in what were very calm conditions for Narooma surf beach with only very small swell.

A low tide meant she and the other swimmers had gathered in a group out at the deeper water some distance out from the shoreline.

The 18-year-old girl was pulled from the water by relatives and other swimmers who waved vigourlesly for help.

Lifeguard Rod Patmore, a rower in the undefeated George Bass team, carried her the rest of way to shore.

He and fellow lifeguard Stan Gorton, Narooma News editor, began to administer first aid.

Third lifeguard Kim Newbold radioed and then ran up to the clubhouse to make sure 000 was being called.

Patrol leader Glenn Bywater communicated the necessary details to surf communications headquarters, later collecting the details of everyone involved for the records.

Another bystander on the beach who had his phone with him also called 000 and relayed the woman’s conditions directly from the lifeguards.

A GP doctor from Orange offered to help and comforted the patient, who after a couple of minutes regained consciosness struggling briefly in her confusion.

Oxygen was administered until the paramedics arrived at the beach.

The Volunteer Rescue Association rescue squad members also attended to stretcher her off the beach to the ambulance.

Glenn checked on the patient’s status at the end of the long eight-hour patrol finding out from her mother that she had been released from hospital but that doctors were at a loss as to what brought on her medical condition.

“Blueprint” to cut drowning deaths on Far South Coast

A STATE-WIDE coastal public safety risk assessment project begins this week in the Bega Valley with the aim of reducing coastal drowning deaths across NSW.

Surf Life Saving NSW’s Project Blueprint aims to help reduce coastal drowning deaths by assessing every beach and rock platform in NSW over the next few years.

The second year of the project will see the coastlines of five local government areas assessed including Bega Valley.

Through the NSW Water Safety Black Spot Fund, Surf Life Saving NSW is using the expertise of Australian Coastsafe, a wholly-owned business unit of Surf Life Saving Australia, to complete the project.

From January 16 to February 19, Surf Life Saving NSW Coastal Risk Officers will assess over 180km of coastline covering 156 locations including 102 beaches and 54 rock platforms throughout the Bega Valley Shire Council and National Parks in the Bega Valley Shire.

SLSNSW coastal risk manager Adam Weir said while the scope of the project was daunting, the information is vital to providing water safety agencies with an effective strategy to reduce the coastal drowning toll.

“Each year, many lives are lost along our coastline, leaving families devastated and communities in shock. Our goal is to reduce drowning deaths by 50 per cent within the next decade,” Mr Weir said.

More than 350 people have drowned in NSW since 2004 – 11 of them along the coastline of the Bega Valley.

The vast majority are people caught in rip currents while swimming, or swept from rocks while fishing and almost all occur at unpatrolled locations or outside patrol hours.

Bega Valley Shire mayor Bill Taylor said the project would be extremely valuable to rescue agencies and ocean goers alike.

“Many people get into trouble in the surf because they misunderstand or underestimate the conditions,” he said.

National Parks and Wildlife Service Far South Coast region manager Tim Shepherd said National Parks was looking forward to working with staff from Surf Life Saving NSW to review and improve safety on local beaches.

“It is good to see state and local government working together in a co-operative manner sharing expertise,” Mr Shepherd said.

Members of the public are invited to attend one of the consultation forums including at Tathra SLSC at 6.30pm on Tuesday, February 4 and Bermagui SLSC at 6.30pm on Thursday, February 13.

The assessment process examines a range of factors which can impact on risk, including education and information, signage and beach access, lifesaving and lifeguard services and the skills of those taking to the water.

Local surf clubs and communities will be consulted throughout the project.

Final assessment reports will be provided to the NSW Government and other relevant agencies and land managers, creating a working “Blueprint” for a state-wide coastal drowning prevention strategy.

For more information on Project Blueprint, visit www.coastsafe.org.au/blueprint

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