Local hero issues ocean safety plea

January 28, 2021 BY

Two people drowned at Surf Coast beaches at the weekend, prompting pleas for people to be safe at the region’s beaches. Photo: LIFE SAVING VICTORIA.

TWO people tragically died at Surf Coast beaches in perilous conditions with strong rips present up and down the coast at the weekend.

The drownings included a 56-year-old man who was swimming at Thirteenth Beach in Barwon Heads on Saturday, and a 58-year-old man who drowned when his boat capsized off Anglesea.

Four swimmers were also rescued, remarkably by the same person, at Thirteenth Beach the following day.

Ben Roberts, a local real estate agent at Bellarine Property, arrived at Thirteenth Beach on Saturday evening to go for a surf and was assessing the swell.

That’s when he realised there were three people getting pulled out into a rip.

Mr Roberts spoke to the surfer next to him and they both grabbed their boards and ran down the stairs.

When they arrived at the bottom of the staircase Mr Roberts said two other males who had gone to help were getting pulled out by the current too.

“They were already 150 metres out in less than two minutes,” he said.

“There were five-foot waves and it took us a fair bit of time to get them in. We were able to get the son in and then the daughter. We then ended up having to help one of the guys who had gone in to help – he was rattled and in a bad way.

“Then a helicopter arrived, but it couldn’t find the dad. We spent 30 minutes looking for him until the helicopter spotted him and winched him out.

“By that stage the paramedics had arrived.”

On Sunday, Mr Roberts was at the same beach when he heard people yelling again.

“Incredibly it was a dad, daughter and son in trouble again.”

Mr Roberts and two others ran in to help.

The father they rescued was blue in the face and could hardly hold onto Mr Roberts’ bodyboard.

“He had been submerged. They were about 30 seconds to a minute away from being in real trouble.”

Thankfully everyone survived.

Mr Robert said he doesn’t consider himself a hero and everyone did what they had to do.

He said it was lucky there were observant people at the beach who could make an assessment quickly.

“As Saturday night shows it only takes someone a few seconds to look the other way and none of those people might have come back,” Mr Roberts said.

The Surf Coast Times reported in January that life savers had performed more than 100 rescues this season across Geelong and the Surf Coast.

Ambulance Victoria said 42 Victorians have drowned since July.

Police and Emergency Services MP and Member for Bellarine Lisa Neville shared her condolences in a Twitter post and pleaded for people to be vigilant around water.

“Follow the warnings, swim between the flags at patrolled times, know the conditions and your abilities, supervise children, never swim alone and don’t drink and swim,” she said.

“Drownings are preventable, and one is one too many.”

Mr Roberts echoed the Minister’s message and said all ocean users should take care.

“Even if you are a competent ocean user it’s one of those things you have to be mindful of and don’t go into areas where you think it could not be safe, especially if you don’t know the wave size, power and rips. It’s why surf life saving is so important.”

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