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Holiday Drowning Toll Down, but Warning Still Out

3 January 2013

Holiday Drowning Toll Down, but Warning Still Out

Three people drowned in New Zealand waters this official Christmas holiday period - between 4pm Christmas Eve and 6am this morning.

And while this is the lowest number of drownings for the Christmas holiday period since 2006-2007, Water Safety New Zealand says it’s still three deaths too many.

“We had hoped to be announcing a zero holiday period toll today and it’s incredibly sad that instead we’re talking about three people that have lost their lives in the water,” says Matt Claridge, Water Safety New Zealand chief executive.

“It’s an absolute tragedy that three families will begin 2013 without a loved one.”

Two of the deaths occurred while the victims were participating in water based recreational activity – one was diving and the other rafting. The third death occurred when the victim entered the surf to help a family member in distress.

Mr Claridge says while it’s positive to see the number of deaths down on previous years - there have been on average ten drownings each Christmas during the past five years – the number of rescues indicate the toll could have been much higher.

“There have been a significant number of extremely close calls and if it wasn’t for others putting themselves at risk – including surf lifeguards around the country and others like Will and Sergio at Waihi – the number of deaths would have been far higher.”

Mr Claridge says with almost a month to go until the end of the school holidays, all holidaymakers need to make water safety a priority, now.

“It doesn’t matter what you’re doing – whether fishing, swimming, boating or just relaxing beside the water – the water safety basics are the same. Watch the weather, keep kids within arms reach, know your limits, don’t drink alcohol if you’re going out on or in the water and use the right safety equipment.”

Parents returning to work also need to ensure that children likely to be spending time at swimming spots are well equipped to keep themselves safe.

Mr Claridge says if anyone needs reminding about how to keep safe in and around the water they should visit www.watersafety.org.nz and familiarise themselves with the water safety code.

“New Zealand has one of the highest drowning rates in the developed world – third only to Finland and Brazil - and this must change. To reduce our shocking drowning toll we need all New Zealanders to learn to swim and survive and to take the necessary precautions when in and around the water. Only then will lives be saved.”

ENDS

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