A VIGIL has been held on the Murray River after a Nepalese man was swept underwater.
He had been playing with friends during a gathering before the accident, and had reportedly been retrieving a frisbee or ball in shallow water when he got into trouble.
Friends and family gathered at the site on Thursday night to pay tribute to the 21-year-old.
A search operation continued on the water on Friday.
The head of Royal Lifesaving has described the incident as “absolutely tragic”.
"It’s deeply upsetting, a young man with his life ahead of him enjoying a picnic, a family gathering, by the river,” chief executive Justin Scarr said.
“As everyone knows, particularly along the Murray River, it’s incredibly dangerous.
“Currents and drop-offs are almost everywhere.
“If you lack the swimming skills, it’s certainly a recipe for disaster.”
The search involved divers, swimmers, volunteers on boats and people searching the river bank.
The operation again focused on a small stretch of water near the boat ramp.
Mr Scarr said more work needed to be done with migrant communities in regional areas, focusing on the danger posed by rivers and lakes.
“It’s also an opportunity to build swimming and lifesaving skills they otherwise wouldn’t have developed in their own nations,” he said.
“Nepal, for example, has a drowning rate five or six times higher than in Australia.
“The country lacks any recognised swimming or lifesaving education system.
“People from Nepal and across southeast Asia are unlikely to have the types of swimming skills Australians often take for granted.”
Royal Lifesaving statistics show 27 per cent of all drownings in Australia in the past decade involved people born overseas.
The vast majority were male, while the Murray is the most dangerous inland river in the country.
There were 41 deaths on the river in the 10 years to June 2018, with the Brisbane River the next highest with 25 fatalities.
Albury and Border Rescue Squad captain Paul Marshall was involved in the search for Mr Pandit on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
He said he had been to about five drownings on the stretch of water near Albury in the past decade.
“You might be able to swim fantastically in a pool, but here the current swirls,” Mr Marshall said from the riverbank on Friday.
“One minute you can be going downstream, the next you can be going upsteam.
“That causes people to panic.
“The one message we try to get across in the Murray is if you do get in trouble, just relax.
“You will end up at a bank a few hundred metres down, in the worst case.”
Mr Marshall said the area Mr Pandit entered quickly dropped from a depth of 1.2 metres to 2.2 metres.
Mr Scarr said groups like Royal Lifesaving had had some success in reducing the drowning toll.
There have been 56 drowning deaths so far this summer.
“Our analysis shows drowning is reducing across Australia,” he said.
“And certainly cases like this reinforce our need to work with the community, including new migrants.
“We had significant issues with the Vietnamese community with rock fishing a decade ago.
“Given the volume of migrants arriving recently from countries across south Asia, we need to ensure they also understand the importance of water safety education.”
Mr Scarr said key survival factors included wearing a lifejacket, knowing your swimming ability, and avoiding jumping or diving into the river.
He said swimmers should also be wary of currents, cold water, and have someone nearby with lifesaving skills when in the water.
While alcohol didn’t appear to be a factor in Wednesday’s incident, Mr Scarr said drinking played a role in many drownings.
Mr Marshall said people often got into trouble when they panicked, which caused hyperventilation and water to be swallowed.
It was important for families to receive closure after drownings, he said.
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