Drownings on the Sunshine Coast

The Australian summer of 2022 and 2023 has seen an unprecedented amount of drownings along the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Drownings are silent, rapid and easily overlooked. Keeping a watchful eye on loved ones in changing water conditions is paramount to reducing the likelihood of drowning.
The Australian summer of 2022 and 2023 has seen an unprecedented amount of drownings along the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Drownings are silent, rapid and easily overlooked. Keeping a watchful eye on loved ones in changing water conditions is paramount to reducing the likelihood of drowning.

The Australian summer of 2022 and 2023 has seen an unprecedented amount of drownings along the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

The loss of Abin Philip at Gardners Falls in November 2022 by drowning, followed by another three lives lost at Caloundra, Cooloola Coast and Coolum Beach in January 2023 have marked a summer of tragedy.

Queensland emergency services attended up to 20 callouts for near drownings and water injuries in the first five days of 2023 alone as life savers warned against rips and large swells.

Drownings are silent, rapid and easily overlooked. Keeping a watchful eye on friends and family in changing water conditions such as rivers, beaches or oceans is paramount to reducing the likelihood of drowning.

Learn how to recognise and respond to drownings by enrolling in one of our first aid courses today:

We have training locations on the Sunshine Coast and in every state, capital city, and major town throughout Australia. Head to our website to find a first aid course near you today.

What is drowning?

Drowning is when water enters the lungs and blocks the airway, usually when someone is submerged in water. Oxygen is unable to enter the body and circulate, leaving the person unconscious. If someone is not pulled from the water as quickly as possible, a drowning can end in fatality.

Drowning can occur when someone is trying to hold their breath and accidentally gasps under water, or accidentally swallows too much water while trying to swim to safety.

Drowning is a common cause of accidental death and can happen within 20 seconds.

How to tell if someone is drowning?

Unlike the movies, where drowning victims flail about calling for help, the person is usually too absorbed in their own survival - instinct takes over and their body focuses on keeping them above the water’s surface for as long as possible. This phenomenon is called the Instinctive Drowning Response.

When swimming in natural bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, or the ocean, the water may have an invisible current moving a swimmer out to sea or exerting downward pressure. It is important to keep this in mind whenever trying to attempt a rescue.

Drowning is a silent killer, if someone is drowning, they’ll tend to try to breathe, rather than call out. Signs of drowning usually start with a struggle in the water and can include:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level.
  • Head tilted back and mouth open.
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus.
  • Eyes closed.
  • Hair over forehead and eyes.
  • Hyperventilating or gasping.
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway.
  • Trying to roll over onto their back.
  • Appearing to climb an invisible ladder.

How to reduce your risk of drowning?

Ensure you obey all safety instructions from authorities, lifesavers on the beach, to safety signs by creeks, rock pools or lakes. Lifesavers recommend signaling by holding up one arm for help and waving, floating and then waiting for assistance.

  • Never swim alone - watch your friends and family.
  • Read and obey the authority’s safety signs - if it says no swimming, don’t swim.
  • Don't swim directly after a meal.
  • Don't swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Always check the depth of the water.
  • Never run or dive into the water. Even if you have checked the depth, water conditions can change.
  • Learn how to spot a rip and keep clear of it.
  • If you get into trouble in the water, stay calm. Signal for help by holding up one arm and waving, float and wait for assistance.
  • Be sun smart: slip, slop, slap, seek, slide. Slip on a shirt, slop on 30+ sunscreen, slap on a brimmed hat, seek shade, slide on sunglasses. Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming.
  • Keep the beach and national parks clean, put your rubbish in a bin. Leave nothing but footprints.
  • Keep out of dunes and fenced areas. They are there to preserve the beach environment.
  • Always swim at beaches with patrolling lifesavers or lifeguards. The Beachsafe App can find your closest patrolled beach.
  • Final thoughts

    This summer has seen an unprecedented number of tragic drownings along the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

    Drownings can happen to anyone and it is important to keep a watchful eye on friends and family when near bodies of water.

    Learn how to recognise and respond to drownings by enrolling in one of our first aid courses today:

    We have training locations on the Sunshine Coast and in every state, capital city, and major town throughout Australia. Head to our website to find a first aid course near you today.

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