Drowning toll rises by 46 per cent

1:21 PM Wednesday Mar 16, 2011

Herald on Sunday - file photo

The national drowning toll for the first two months of the year rose to 35, after 15 drownings in February.

This was a 46 per cent increase in the number of fatalities compared with the same period last year when 24 people drowned, Water Safety NZ general manager Matt Claridge said today.

In February there had been seven recreational drownings, four non-recreational and four classified as "other" which included road vehicle and commercial incidents, Mr Claridge said.


"We know that drowning incidents will peak over the summer months as people take advantage of time away from work and the warmer weather to enjoy aquatic-based activities, but to have such a dramatic increase in terms of a comparison with last year's statistics is very discouraging."

Twelve of the 15 February deaths (80 per cent) occurred in the upper half of the North Island - Northland (two), Auckland (five), Waikato (two) and the Bay of Plenty (three). Most occurred at beaches (five), and rivers and streams (four).

"People are continuing to ignore safety considerations when swimming, whether it is swimming alone, swimming in areas that are obviously dangerous or beyond a person's skill level, the inevitable result is that lives are lost."

Three young children who had access to water drowned whilst unsupervised in February, Mr Claridge said.

"These type of incidents just don't need to happen. Young children are notorious in their desire for exploring new and exciting environments, parents know this yet all too often supervision standards are inadequate."

Parents and caregivers must ensure that young children were appropriately supervised at all times when recreating in, or near the water, Mr Claridge said.

They should also provide a safe home environment and ensure that all potential water hazards were nullified or unsupervised access was not possible.