Beach deaths spark warning

SWIMMERS have been reminded to stay between the flags after a tragic day in the surf claimed the lives of two people in Gippsland last week.

A man and woman died in hospital after they were caught in a rip with five others at Phillip Island’s Cape Woolamai.

Two other men and a woman were also pulled from the water by lifeguards and taken to hospital for treatment.

Life Saving Victoria operations manager Greg Scott said it was a timely reminder for people to avoid swimming at unpatrolled beaches.

He said rips often looked like the more inviting parts of the water and were often darker, calmer and surrounded by waves.

Once trapped in a rip, it can be difficult for swimmers to know how best to escape.

“The research that’s been done in recent years shows rips are more complicated than we realise,” Mr Scott said.

“Sometimes it’s a case of floating and the waves will take you back to the sandbar. Other times it’s swimming in a certain direction, but each rip is different.

“It can be confusing to know what to do, so it is best to swim between the flags and avoid rips in the first place.”

Those caught in a rip are advised to lie on their back to preserve energy and wave their arm to alert a lifeguard.

Life Saving Victoria has undertaken 282 rescues since the beginning of November, of which Mr Scott said many were largely attributed to those caught in currents.

He said 10 January was not a particularly dangerous day as the beach was always a danger zone, but the deaths highlighted the importance of beach safety.

“The two people who tragically lost their lives last week were in shallow water,” Mr Scott said.

“Water conditions at the beach are forever changing and the safest thing people can do is swim at patrolled beaches between the flags.”