Editorial September 12 2017

The beaches of the Illawarra have claimed another victim.

Victorian man Shaun Oliver died at the weekend trying to save kids in trouble in our surf.

The father of three was simply going for a walk on a Sunday afternoon when he spotted kids getting into trouble at Wollongong’s City Beach.

In saving the children, Shaun unfortunately lost his life.

Detective Inspector Brad Ainsworth, of Wollongong Local Area Command, was in no doubt about the actions of the Victorian man. 

“It’s a heroic act,” Det Insp Ainsworth said. “It’s unfortunately cost him his life.” 

As temperatures continue to heat up and our region shakes off the winter blues it is an unfortunate reminder of just how deadly our surf can be.

As beautiful and spectacularly inviting our coastline is, it has its own dangers that anyone going to our beaches should be acutely aware of. Our surf conditions at the best of times are powerful. A lack of waves does not mean a lack of undercurrent.

“There was a heavy surf, there was a drag, there was an undercurrent - there were all the conditions there that you don’t go in,” Det Insp Ainsworth said. 

“It’s a tragic loss of life and, not putting too much of a point on it … it really puts individuals that come to the aid of people there in danger, and it's the ultimate sacrifice, I suppose.”

“We haven’t even reached the swimming season yet. Unfortunately it’s a timely reminder and warning that you swim between the flags, at patrolled beaches only.”

It can not be said enough. Swim between the flags and at patrolled beaches only.

Do our emergency services and our surf lifesavers favour and adhere to that message going in to summer. A family has lost a father, while one family was lucky not to have lost their children. This tragedy can also serve as a strong message that there is only one way to safely enjoy our beaches this summer.

“If you do get stuck in a rip, we encourage you to raise your hand to signal for help and ride the rip out to the back where there is calmer water and hopefully wait for emergency services to arrive.”  Lachlan Pritchard, Surf Life Saving state duty officer, said.

Please be sensible and safe. The message from surf lifesavers this summer is “no flags, no swim”. That’s a pretty simple instruction to follow.

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