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Byron Shire
March 29, 2023

Tragic new record high for coastal drownings

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Surf Life Saving NSW reports that surf lifesavers are battling a shocking summer that has seen volunteer surf lifesavers and lifeguards amidst the worst season for coastal drownings on record, as three drownings in two days over the weekend bring the rolling tally to 26 since December 1.

That number may be poised to rise as well with two incidents from yesterday, Sunday 19 February, rolling over into today and Surf Life Saving assets on standby to launch again at 8am in two separate locations for search and rescue missions.

The three drownings, the most recent of which occurring at Seal Rocks on the Lower North Coast on Sunday evening, ensured that with one weekend left of summer, the 2022-23 season will be the worst on record – with time still for that number to grow.

Surpassing last year’s tally

Twenty-six coastal drownings since December 1 surpasses last year’s tally of 25 for the three-month period.

At Treachery Beach in Seal Rocks, the Surf Life Saving NSW State Operations Centre (SOC) was advised by NSW Police at around 7.22pm that a male had been witnessed submerging in a rip.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter made its way to the scene and the Pacific Palms SLSC Call Out Team was tasked and, once having launched a jet ski to assist in the rescue, located a man at the north end of the beach.

The jet ski operator pulled the man onto the back of the watercraft, however tricky conditions meant the Helicopter would eventually need to assist with extrication, and the man in his 50s was later declared deceased.

The drowning incident followed two on Saturday 18 February, one at Timber Beach in Lake Munmorah National Park and one at Wreck Beach in Port Stephens, where men – also in their 50s – were pulled from the water and later declared deceased on scene.

In the Hunter, the man was reportedly surfing before he came into trouble, while on the Central Coast the man’s wife had advised that her husband had gone for a swim and not returned. He was later found a beach over in the break zone from where his wife had called in the incident.

For the weekend of 18-19 February, volunteer surf lifesavers made 72 rescues, engaged in 4,241 preventative actions, performed 155 first aids, and nine ambulances were called by the SOC.

Incidents still ongoing

Two incidents are still ongoing – search and rescue operations resumed at 8am this morning for people believed to be missing at Maroubra and Wamberal.

SLSNSW CEO, Steve Pearce, said this weekend was a terrible one on the coastline. ‘Every drowning is a tragedy and to have now had 26 since December 1, which is a new record in NSW, is truly devastating.

‘I must reiterate the message we have been spreading all summer. If you are visiting the coastline, always swim at a patrolled location between the red and yellow flags.

‘If we can’t see you, we can’t save you.’

Since December 1 2022, there have been 26 coastal drownings and 38 since July 1 2022.


  • Always swim between the red and yellow patrol flags, for your nearest patrolled beach check the BeachSafe app or website
  • Read the safety signs for information about the beach and ask a lifesaver or lifeguard for safety information
  • Always swim with someone else so you can look out for each other, and always supervise children around the water
  • Never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • If you need help in the water, stay calm and attract attention by raising one arm
  • In an emergency, dial Triple Zero
  • For information about patrol times, weather, and beach locations visit the Beachsafe Website or Download the App.

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