'Sheer luck' saves six people from drowning

Swimmers are still putting their lives at risk on the region's beaches by taking a dip outside the red and yellow flags, a senior Kiama lifeguard says.

Kiama Council lifeguard supervisor Jamie Caldwell said it was sheer luck there had not been any fatalities, particularly on New Year's Day.

"In all seriousness today there should be six people deceased," Mr Caldwell said.

GALLERY: New Year's Eve in the Gong

GALLERY: The morning after

"People are taking unnecessary risks, they know what they're doing is dangerous."

About 2pm on Tuesday a member of the public spotted a man in trouble at a section of Bombo Beach that was not patrolled and rushed in to help.

"When we got alerted to it and got down there and hit the water, the member of the public was underwater holding this bloke up," Mr Caldwell said.

Just 2½ hours later triple-0 received a call reporting five people caught in a rip, also at Bombo. They were pulled out of the water by members of the public who happened to be walking past.

Mr Caldwell praised the efforts of the rescuers who put their own lives on the line to save the struggling swimmers.

"They didn't have to do that but they have, and they deserve a pat on the back," he said.

Cooler weather conditions brought some relief for lifeguards and lifesavers in other parts of the region yesterday, giving them a chance to catch their breath following a busy New Year period.

Yesterday it was Wollongong City Council's cleaners who had their work cut out, picking up piles of rubbish left behind, and often stacked neatly next to overfull bins, by beachgoers.

Surf Life Saving Illawarra director Ian Lee said he had been impressed by the behaviour of most beachgoers throughout the festive period.

"The thing that impressed me a lot was the hands-on supervision from mums and dads," he said.

Mr Lee said the large numbers of bluebottle stings also kept lifesavers busy.

It was a similar story for volunteer lifesavers south of Warilla, with Surf Life Saving South Coast president Steve Jones relieved at the lack of major rescues.

However, one person died on the South Coast after suffering a medical emergency while bodyboarding at Inyadda Beach, Bendalong, on New Year's Eve.

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