ALCOHOL and bravado are the key reasons for some of the tragedies that have led to the Murray River being identified as the nation’s inland water-way with the most drownings.
A 10-year Royal Life Saving Society study has found the Murray topped the country’s drowning blackspots with 43 deaths. The Brisbane River had 33 drownings and the Yarra River, running through Melbourne, 29.
Men accounted for 80 per cent of drownings in the research period from 2002 to 2012.
Albury and Border Rescue Squad captain Stuart Dye yesterday said he was not surprised the Murray had the No. 1 ranking.
“People don’t appreciate or have respect for what it is — a beautiful, flowing river,” he said.
“They start mixing alcohol and bravado and it’s a lethal mix.”
EDITORIAL:River must be respected
Mr Dye would like to see the Murray lose the title but said that was unrealistic, given there had been 10 drownings in the Murray since July.
The victims included Abdul Ehsani, a 41-year-old Afghan man who lost his life at Noreuil Park in January.
“It’s not a nice title to have,” Mr Dye said.
“People need to be more vigilant and never swim alone.”
Mr Dye has recovered more than 40 people from the Murray during his 30 years with the association.
He said while all drownings were tragic, some stuck with him more than others.
“About 10 years ago I recovered a three-month-old baby in the Murray near Tocumwal — it was just devastating,” he said.
Royal Life Saving Society Australia chief Justin Scarr said 735 people had drowned in the nation’s rivers in the decade to 2012.
The figures included those people who have fallen from boats and watercraft, those swept away by floodwater and others who got into trouble while swimming.
“Many Australians think drowning only occurs on beaches or in backyard swimming pools,” Mr Scarr said.
“Many underestimate the dangers of rivers, where conditions could change on a daily basis.”
The study also found 80 per cent of drownings in inland waterways involved men, typically those who were middle-aged.
“Alcohol is a huge problem and it really is men who are drowning in these places,” Mr Scarr said.
The society said people should never swim alone.
It also said anyone under the influence or drugs should steer well clear of rivers.