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Five drowned and close calls reinforce water safety concerns during holidays

The Christmas and New Year holiday period has resulted in five drowning deaths in New Zealand.  A number of other water related fatalities and near misses have reinforced the importance of water safety education and attention to supervision around water at all times.  Good fortune has contributed to survival in a number of instances and thankfully not more fatalities have occurred as a result of poor decision making.

Statistics released today by Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) for the holiday period show that there were two Recreational and three Non Recreational drowning deaths.  Two of the three Non Recreational incidents involved the rescuing of family members from a swimming activity.
 
In the last 20 years, 49 New Zealanders have drowned as a result of attempting to Rescue Others.  Half of all those victims were attempting to rescue a family member.
 
The average drowning toll for the holiday period (last five years) is seven drowning deaths.  There were 11 deaths during the 2008/09 holiday period and 10 in 2007/08.
 
The following summarise the 2009/10 holiday period drowning fatalities:
 
Environment:         •        3    Surf Beach
               •        1    Lake
               •        1    River
 
Activity:                   •        2    Rescuing Others        
               •        1    Swimming
               •        1    Angling
               •        1    River Crossing
 
Ethnicity:                •        2    Maori
               •        1    European
               •        1    Pacific Peoples
               •        1    Asian
 
Age:                         •        1    0-4 years
                                 •        3    35-44 years
                                 •        1    55-64 years
 
Gender:                   •        4    Male
                                 •        1    Female
 
Region:                   •        2    Northland
               •        2    Auckland        
               •        1    Wairarapa
 
WSNZ General Manager, Matt Claridge comments; “this holiday period has been marked by some heartbreaking incidents.  The heroic act of rescuing family members from the water has resulted in the tragic loss of life on two occasions.  Both incidents could have easily resulted in children losing their lives.   No one can begrudge the acts carried out in incredibly difficult conditions.  They serve to highlight the importance to all New Zealanders of possessing swim and survival skills and basic water safety knowledge.”
 
“Decisions about where families and especially children should swim at beaches are crucial and can lead to a fatal outcome if not made correctly. Children should be supervised at all times.  Often, that may mean a parent or caregiver in the water with them to lend a hand.  Swimming between the flags when at patrolled beaches is fundamental.  But if at a beach that is not serviced by lifeguards, the ability to identify dangers such as rips and how to avoid them, along with providing uncompromised supervision are the basics to ensure children enjoy their summer holiday.”
 
Claridge continues “the importance of all New Zealanders having swim and survival skills has been highlighted over the holiday break.  No one plans or expects to use those skills in an emergency, but most importantly, no one ever knows when they may need them to save a life or even their own life.  All children should learn to swim whilst at school and it should be systemically supported by government to enable all schools to implement basic swim and survival programmes for their students.  Otherwise more and more children and adults will perish in the water unnecessarily.”
 
Claridge concludes, “The next period through till the end of February is still the drowning season and presents real risks given parents are starting to head back to work.  40% of all drowning deaths occur in the summer months.  Water Safety New Zealand makes a further reminder to be prepared when around water, along with reminding parents to ensure children are educated and well supervised at all times.”

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