Lifeguard warned of tragedy

IN August 2009 after the drowning of an Upper Coomera man at Cabarita Beach, long-time battler for better lifeguard services on the Tweed coast Roger McLeod warned it was only a matter of time before another drowning occurred in the same place.

Today Mr McLeod says his heart again goes out to the family of a missing swimmer - this time the host family of Kenyan 16-year-old, Samuel Macharia, who remains missing after taking a swim at the beach on Sunday.

With hopes fading for Samuel, Mr McLeod fears finding the teenager may "be a few days off."

"That's what happened last time," he said of the 2009 tragedy which occurred in similar rough conditions.

Mr McLeod has renewed his call for a paid lifeguard service, including mobile patrols, which he said would warn people not to go into the water in dangerous conditions.

In 2009 the Upper Coomera man and his cousin went into the water at Cabarita Beach - with just the cousin making it back to shore.

Later that week Mr McLeod said the men would most likely have been warned not to swim there if professional lifeguards had been present.

Just over a year earlier he told a coroner's inquest in Murwillumbah that the drowning of another man at Kingscliff in May 2007 could have been prevented if the beach had been patrolled.

"I'm saying as a life member of Tweed Coast Sea Rescue and as a retired professional lifeguard from Wollongong City Council for just under 10 years, life saving and life guarding isn't just about going out and saving people on a rescue board or rubber duck or sea rescue boat. It's about location, surveillance and communicating with the public," Mr McLeod told the Daily News.

"It's about making sure they don't swim in dangerous areas. That is done by active surveillance."

Mr McLeod repeated his earlier calls for Tweed Shire Council to fund a contract lifeguard service or its own lifeguards, similar to the Gold Coast's, on popular beaches from September 1 to May 1.

"Tweed Council has done some improvements with its contact lifeguard service and I complement them on that," he said.

"But this has happened at the same spot as the drowning in 2009. They were told it would happen again in the same area.

"That incident would have been prevented if they had a mobile patrol and appropriate funding put aside.

"It's all about surveillance and prevention. The rest is all hero stuff.

"If you have surveillance and prevention you don't have to worry about the hero stuff. It's been proven most lives in Australia are saved through surveillance and prevention."

Mr McLeod, a real estate agent on the Tweed Coast for the past 22 years, also warned the council should not be approving massive urban developments without setting aside more funds for a lifeguard service.

"More and more people are going to drown on our beaches. Council has to rethink their funding," he said.

"They can't keep on approving developments without enough infrastructure for the population growth like more police, better lifeguard services, better roads.

"At the end of the day, if they are going to increase the population, you have to increase the emergency infrastructure."

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