The drowning death of a 29-year-old man at McLoughlins Beach in Victoria yesterday has highlighted the inherent dangers of the beach and ocean environment.
The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter and lifesavers from Woodside Beach Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) were tasked by the Police Rescue Coordination Centre to assist Water Police, Police Air Wing, Air Ambulance and Australian Volunteer Coast Guard in the search for a missing swimmer who had last been seen swimming off McLoughlins Beach with another two men about 2.30pm.
The Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) crew from Woodside Beach SLSC was the first rescue boat on scene, searching the shallow waters around the entrance to the estuary and also the tidal flow along the beach.
Another volunteer lifesaver was dropped off on the beach to provide comfort to the associates of the missing swimmer.
The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter assisted in the search from the air and located the missing man approximately 1km out to sea from the entrance around 4.20pm.
A crew from the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard was tasked to recover the man, who had died in the water.
Woodside SLSC President Terry Ollington said the inlet entrance was known to be dangerous, with a strong run-out tide.
“The tide there travels out very quickly, around 3-4 knots and the tide was going out at the time the man got into difficulty in the water,” he said. “Our volunteer rescue boat crew responded quickly to the incident and worked carefully under direction of the Water Police to search the area. Two of our 17-year-old patrol members involved in the search performed their duties excellently, in what was a very sad outcome.
Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Crew member Jack Elsum said the crew worked with other emergency service aircraft to search the area.
“We were focussed on searching around the inlet site.,” he said. “We could see where the plume of tidal water had gone out to sea. The sediment in this plume made it hard to see in the water.
Life Saving Victoria Operations Manager Greg Scott said this tragic death is a sad reminder of why we need to be vigilant about water safety.
“It’s important to remember that every beach is inherently dangerous,” he said. “A beach may look easy to swim across, however if you are not familiar with local conditions, they can be dangers you are not aware of, such as rip currents and tides, which sadly in this case, we have seen be fatal.
“Always check the local condition before getting into the water and make sure that you never swim alone.”