Albury Rescue Squad in call for lifebuoys

ALBURY’S rescue volunteers are calling for life-saving measures at popular swimming spots.

Albury and Border Rescue Squad captain Stuart Dye, backed by fellow volunteers, yesterday reflected on last week’s tragedy in which 41-year-old Afghani man Abdul Ehsani drowned at Noreuil Park.

Mr Dye said if lifebuoys had been available to the public, Mr Ehsani may not have drowned.

“Several people jumped in to try to help him,” he said.

“If they had something to throw to him, it might have saved him.”

But the squad’s view is at odds with that of Royal Lifesaving Association of Australia.

It believes lifeguards and buoys are not necessarily the solution.

An association risk assessment in 2009 reviewed the possibility of lifeguards being stationed between Oddies Creek and Noreuil Park.

It found at least 20 guards would be needed to adequately patrol the area, while bends in the river would limit their sight line to 100 metres.

The idea of floatation devices was also raised, but the association found they, too, would provide limited cover, and were vulnerable to theft and vandalism.

The association’s Riverina manager Mick Dasey said the consensus was that awareness and education worked better.

Mr Dasey said the association needed to hammer home the water safety message to immigrants and international visitors.

“Over the past couple of years, the common denominator in situations in inland waters is they involve people from different cultures,” he said.

“Perhaps we need to work with those communities and make sure the message filters down.”

Mr Dasey said while many Australians saw swimming as an important life skill, that was not always part of a child’s upbringing in other cultures.

“The individual has to understand the risk and if they don’t, they shouldn’t be going into the water,” he said.

Albury Council spokeswoman Rebecca Bates said the council had taken steps to improve safety by raising community awareness, closing the Noreuil Park boat ramp, installing warning signs, and upgrading lighting.

Mr Dye said he understood it might be difficult to work out where life buoys should be placed and that they might be stolen or vandalised, but those issue were not reason enough not to act.

“If they save one person, isn’t it worth it?” he asked.

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