Surf lifesaving action at Rainbow Beach. Picture: HARVPIX
Surf lifesaving action at Rainbow Beach. Picture: HARVPIX

Lifesavers target hidden killer in our surf – maybe it’s you

FITNESS or lack of it may be the key to what life savers are calling a "tragic" year in the surf.

A total of 21 people lost their lives along the Queensland coastline in 2018-19, according to Surf Life Saving Queensland.

That was three times the number who died in similar circumstances last statistical year, a spokesman said yesterday.

Of the 21 deaths, 12 occurred tragically close to flagged areas, where help would have been available more quickly.

"They were within 500m of a patrolled area," the spokesman said.

"If they'd just walked a little bit further they would have been safe," he said.

But surprisingly, he said many of the deaths involved a "suspected medical episode" other than drowning, things like heart attacks and strokes.

The figures are alarming.

The deaths, 83 per cent outside the flags and 12 of those within 500m of the flags, occurred in the context of a 35 per cent increase in rescues in the same year.

The spokesman said medical issues could happen to anyone in the surf, but most deaths were preventable.

"We are urging people to have a medical check-up if they are over 50, so their GP can tell them whether they are fit enough to be exerting themselves in the water," he said.

Of 340 rescues from Redcliffe to Rainbow, official SLSQ figures show 18 of them were at Rainbow Beach.

One person was assisted with a spinal injury, three had broken bones and in one case, oxygen was administered.

Marine stings accounted for the vast majority of first aid administrations at the Cooloola Coast. All were confined to minor incidents, but life savers treated 494 of those.

Other first aid was administered in eight cases described as "minor" and five as "major".