Peter's 'gut-wrenching' memories serve as warning

Volunteer rescue diver Peter Wright carries a log book full of tragedy after serving the Corowa community for 32 years.

Tired of seeing the grieving faces of family members who have lost loved ones in the area’s rivers, he is issuing a warning to swimmers to be safe this summer.

Mr Wright said the most frustrating part was that most of the deaths were preventable.

“After 32 years it’s tough enough recovering a person in a black river, but what’s worse is seeing the absolute devastation etched on the faces of their family,” he said.

These included mothers and fathers of unsupervised children who had drowned playing in what looked like shallow water but had soon got out of their depth.

Mr Wright said the sounds one mother made when the body of her seven-year-old son was recovered still haunted him.

“It was gut-wrenching,” he said.

“It’s so important to supervise your children in rivers, pools and dams, because unsupervised they can get into trouble so quickly.”

Another drowning recorded in his book is that of a 75-year-old man who thought he could swim across the Murray River but never made it to the other side.

Mr Wright said people misjudging their abilities was common and his number one message for people who came into trouble was not to panic.

“They get exhausted, they panic and they drown,” he said.

Instead, he said people should concentrate on keeping their heads up out of the water and focus on floating until they hopefully reach a snag or embankment.

One of the saddest recoveries for Mr Wright was recovering the body of a friend who died after jumping from a bridge into the Murray.

He warned engaging in such activity carried a high risk with a potential for floating debris to knock people unconscious or wind them so they sank to the bottom.

While he didn’t want to stop people from having fun, he said river swings could also be dangerous and recommended people checked the river’s depth and for debris before using them or to avoid them at all.

Mr Wright said most drownings involved alcohol and he advised swimmers to stay well away from it if entering the water.

The years of recovering drowned bodies has weighed heavily on Mr Wright and he now visits schools in an effort to get his message across.

He said that people would ignore his advise gave him chills.

“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of who’s going to be the next victim in our rivers,” he said.

The Volunteer Rescue Association Corowa squad is looking for new members.

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