Lifeguards save 100 in busiest season to date

25 Apr 2019

City of Newcastle lifeguards saved more than 100 lives this surf season as soaring temperatures and dry conditions made for one of the busiest years on record, with more than 1.2 million people flocking to City beaches.

CN’s lifeguards have called on the public to exercise caution this weekend, when heavy seas are expected, and after their patrol season finishes on Sunday.

City lifeguard Daniel Collins was involved in a rescue at Merewether Baths in December

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes praised the lifeguard team for their courage and skill in providing the rate-payer funded service that genuinely saves lives.

“Our lifeguards saved more than 100 people in significant rescues this season and effected 15,000 preventative actions,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Protecting tourists and beachgoers from the dangers of the sea is no easy feat, particularly when they’re keeping watch over 1.2 million visitors.

“I’d like to thank all of our lifeguards for the work they do and alert the public to be careful in their absence at some City beaches from Monday.”

City Lifeguard Daniel Collins recalled an incident late last year when he and quick-thinking colleagues rescued a father and his two children from a rip behind Merewether Baths.

“The lifeguard on duty at Merewether Baths raised the alarm to neighbouring beaches, and called for assistance, before entering the water with a rescue tube,” Mr Collins said.

“I responded on a rescue board from Merewether together with Mel Thurlow from Dixon Park, and the jet ski was dispatched from Nobbys Beach to assist.

“The quick thinking, communication and actions of all lifeguards involved ensured the three family members were returned to shore safely and reunited with their waiting mother and wife.”

CN lifeguards have also administered 2,800 first aid procedures since September, including 80 major cases such as resuscitations, treatment of broken bones and relieving the effects of marine stingers.

Aquatic Services Co-ordinator Donna McGovern, a former Olympic swimmer, said hotter dryer conditions than usual were behind the higher number of rescues and preventative actions.

“The 2018/19 summer season was arguably the busiest season the Beach lifeguard service has experienced due to hot dry conditions and the increased activation of the coast due to the Bathers Way,” McGovern said.

“Lifeguards are extremely proactive when it comes to taking preventative measures. This can include asking surfers to surf outside the flagged area to urging beach goers to swim between the red and yellow flags instead of near dangerous rips.”

When prevention fails, it can often take just split seconds for swimmers to find trouble and the same time for lifeguards to act.

Nobbys, Bar and Merewether Beaches are patrolled all year round. Dixon Park, Newcastle and Stockton offer seasonal services over 30 weeks, starting in the September school holidays.

While April marks the end of the summer patrol season, lifeguards’ community contributions don’t end.

During winter, they move from the beach to Newcastle schools to help deliver the City’s long-running Water Safety Education Program. More than 100,000 students aged five to 13 years have benefited from the 52-year-old Water Safety Education Program, which has just been nominated as a finalist for a Local Government Excellence Award in the Service Delivery Initiative category.

For a breakdown of rescue and treatment statistics from the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, please see the table below.

Statistic 2017-18 2018-19

Attendance1 million1.2 million
Preventative Actions13,00015,000
Minor first aid25002800
Major first aid7580