A MAN drowned at a Cape Woolamai beach on Monday afternoon following another suspected drowning on Christmas Day.
Shortly before 5pm on Monday, January 1, a man was spotted in trouble at the Woolamai Beach.
The man, who hasn’t been identified, is believed to have been caught in a rip and couldn’t swim out of it. Police say rescue attempts to reach the swimmer were unsuccessful.
The man was found dead about 20 minutes later.
Separately, a 28-year-old Melbourne man is suspected to have drowned on Christmas Day after he went for a swim at the Woolamai Beach.
Local surfers came to the aid of the swimmer at around 5.30pm when they saw he was struggling in the rough conditions, but were unable to save him.
He was taken out to sea by the strong currents.
Emergency services spent the evening searching for the man. The following day, a local swimmer discovered human remains.
They were sent off for forensic testing, but police say it’ll take up to six weeks before the results are known.
The Woolamai Beach re-opened on Boxing Day, with lifesavers urging people to swim in-between the flags.
Woolamai Surf Life Saving Club life member Michelle Murphy offered the club’s condolences to the family and friends of the swimmers.
She said for people who didn’t grow up around beaches, there can be a lack of understanding about the dangers of swimming.
“The Woolamai Beach itself is a bar and rip beach, so what happens is the waves break on the sandbar and that’s the safest place for people to swim,” she said.
“That’s where the flags are and I can understand that from the ramp, people see a flat piece of water and it looks really inviting and calm, but that’s the rip.
“If you’re not a strong swimmer and you weren’t brought up near a beach, you’d want to swim there, but that’s the most dangerous part.”
The Woolamai Beach is ranked “highly hazardous” with a hazard rating of 8/10.
Ms Murphy highlighted the importance of swimmers regularly checking to make sure they’re swimming in between the flags.
“Life savers move the flags slightly as the tide goes in and out because as that happens the sandbars move around and over a 24 hour period, the size of the sandbar changes.”
She said people need to listen to the directions of lifesavers and encouraged beachgoers to always swim with a friend.
“Life savers are constantly asking people to move across, many not realising they’re one step away from being caught in a rip.
“These are really simple things but when you think about it, it’s the perception. The water might look calm but people need to be weary because that’s likely a rip.
“If you’re unsure, please go ask the life savers. We also have signs at the top of the ramp telling people about where to swim, water temperature and things like that.”
If you find yourself in a rip, do not try and fight it.
“Allow it to take you out and it will invariably bring you back to a sandbar,” Ms Murphy said.
“You will get exhausted very quickly if you try and fight it so stay calm, and focus on floating on your back.”
On Christmas Day, Life Saving Victoria issued a statement urging all beachgoers to stay safe this summer.
Operations manager Greg Scott said it’s important people realise how dangerous beaches can be, even on a calm day.
“Conditions can change quickly so we ask people to check weather forecasts and monitor the conditions,” he said.
“To ensure your day at the beach is an enjoyable one, consider your own abilities as well as the abilities of any children or family members with you, before entering the water.
“Know how to identify and avoid rip currents. Three-quarters of people cannot identify a rip current, and two-thirds of the people who think they can spot a rip, can’t.”
He encouraged beachgoers to swim at patrolled beaches when possible.
Two drown at Woolamai Beach