OPINION: Beaches should not be closed

THE inquest into the deaths of three youngmen, David Russell Gadd, Kamran BimalGujari and Nasir Ali Anwari, who drownedat Encounter Bay beaches, has beencompleted and the findings andrecommendations handed down.
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In the 57-page document by deputy statecoroner Anthony Schapel, he speaks of thetragic deaths of the three men, aged 28, 19and 18, and detailed the swimming abilitiesof the three men.

Mr Gadd’s mother had told the court thather son could swim, but said he was not astrong swimmer.

Mr Gujari’s father Kasem, said that his sondid not particularly like swimming, that hehad never known his son to swim, and statedthat he had never taken any swimminglessons. It is also believed that Mr Anwari -who had grown up in Afghanistan andPakistan – had not taken part in wateractivities or water sports and had neverundertaken formal swimming lessons orwater safety education.

The most controversial point to be raisedfrom the inquest was whether the beachesshould be closed, if swimming should bebanned, or if the stairway access to PetrelCove should be removed. This decision hasbeen put back into the hands of VictorHarbor council.

While the deaths of these three men are soincredibly sad and our thoughts are with theirfamilies, it is not enough reason for thecouncil to close or remove safe access to thebeaches.

Petrel Cove and Depledge Beach arepopular locations for swimming and surfing.Families have been going there forgenerations. Thousands of people use thebeach each year, without getting into trouble.

The public shouldn’t be penalised by closureof the beach. These three men were naiveabout the power of the water currents andweren’t strong swimmers.

Hopefully the new signage at the beacheswhich states “swimming is not advised” andthat there have been drowning deaths at thebeaches, will make swimmers question theirswimming ability, whether they should enterthe water and how far they should swim out.

After all, there needs to be some level ofpersonal responsibility, and you can’tlegislate for common sense.

Mr Schapel’s findings also give details ofa member of the public who courageouslytried to save Mr Gujari, and The Big Duckowner Dan Irvine, who retrieved Mr Gaddfrom the water.

On February 9, 2012, Mr Irvine heard aradio call, while he was out on his boat, thata male – Mr Gadd – was in trouble in watersnear Petrel Cove. Mr Irvine sped in andretrieved Mr Gadd from the waters.

The coroner viewed Mr Irvine’s actions ascourageous and said he, “would recommendMr Irvine for whatever citation for braveryis considered appropriate”. From such atragic event, the local community can findcomfort in having a local business ownerwho understands the region’s sea conditions,and would risk his own safety to try to savethe life of a stranger.

As Mr Schapel said, Mr Irvine is deservingof a bravery award, and the community canbe honoured to call him one of its own.

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