Clarence calls for new lifeguards after drowning
THE tragic drowning of a Lismore surfer and increasing tourist numbers have sparked a call for an increased red and yellow presence on Clarence Valley beaches through summer.
Ken McLean's death at Turners Beach in Yamba on Wednesday, following a knock from his surfboard, was the first official drowning on a patrolled Clarence Valley beach for at least 18 years.
One lifeguard was posted at the beach at the time of the accident, and while there is absolutely no suggestion that an extra lifeguard would have changed the outcome, Clarence Valley lifeguard supervisor Greg Wyllie said it was a huge responsibility for one person to manage.
"One thing in our line of work is that we can't control mother nature, so it's hard to manage crowd behaviour," Mr Wyllie said.
"It's also one of those jobs where you can't predict when an accident is going to happen. When the incident happened (on Wednesday afternoon), there were 30 people in the water and about 50 people on the beach reserve area.
"It's very complex for one person to manage an emergency like that and work with the patient, and also look out for other people."
The contract between the Australian Lifeguard Service and Clarence Valley Council means that on most afternoons during the peak tourist season, five of the region's seven patrolled beaches are one-man stations from 1pm.
The Clarence Valley lifeguard supervisor said he would like to see that changed to include two lifeguards on all beaches - in Yamba at least - for the full six weeks of summer, which would also bring the region closer to the standard of other council areas.
"As tourism continues to grow in the Clarence Valley there is an element of more stress on all services," he told The Daily Examiner on Thursday.
"It seems there are a lot of people extending their holiday season... so beaches today are as crowded as what they were three weeks ago.
"It would be nice to think that as tourism grows so does our service."
Clarence Valley Council's director of works and civil Troy Anderson said the council was currently in discussions with the Australian Lifeguards Service regarding patrol numbers in the Clarence Valley, and had requested an estimate of costs.
"Council has a contractual arrangement with Australian Lifeguard Service which determines the requirements for guards on patrol at each location... so any request for additional lifeguards above and beyond what is in the contract would be at council's cost," he said.
Due to the predicted high numbers on the beaches this weekend for Australia Day, CVC has requested ALS provide two guards at each beach during all patrol hours, from today until Tuesday.