Boaters urged to keep safe in colder conditions

13 July 2015

Roads and Maritime Services is advising boaters to ensure they are adequately prepared before embarking on cold weather boating trips, particularly if venturing out alone after a  a male kayaker suffered serious hypothermia at Lake Macquarie on Sunday.

“About 10.30am yesterday, Roads and Maritime Services Boating Safety Officer Mick McKenzie was carrying out a routine patrol of Swansea Channel at Lake Macquarie when he noticed a person lying on a sandbar next to a kayak,” Roads and Maritime Services Maritime Director Angus Mitchell said.

“The male in his mid 20s was wearing an inflatable lifejacket and while conscious, was not coherent, and found to be suffering severe hypothermia.

“The man was placed on board the Maritime vessel and transferred to shore for treatment and stabilisation by ambulance officers before being transported to hospital.

“Ambulance officers estimate the man had been in the water for between eight and 11 hours and would not have survived for much longer had he not been located.”

Mr Mitchell said boaters should be aware the Bureau of Meteorology has reiterated another cold snap has been predicted to come through later on Wednesday over southern and central ranges and northern ranges from Thursday.

“In the five years to the end of June, there were 19 reported boating incidents involving hypothermia, including four incidents which resulted in five fatalities - two on the south coast, one in the Hunter area and two on the Hawkesbury River,” he said.

“There were also nine incidents which resulted in 16 serious injuries with seven in the Sydney region, four in Hunter area and five in southern NSW.

“The majority of incidents, 13 in total, occurred on inland waters compared to six incidents on open waters, which reinforces the need to remind boaters about the dangers of fishing on inland lakes at this time of the year.”

Of the 19 incidents which resulted in hypothermia cases, 11 resulted from the boat capsizing, Mr Mitchell said.

“Mid-winter, boaters need to remember the potentially deadly consequences of immersion in cold water and the need to guard against hypothermia.”

“All boaters should prepare for the possibility of suffering hypothermia while out on the water, which can result from immersion or from being in damp or wet clothes and being exposed to wind chill.

“Clothing needs to maintain body heat when wet, such as woollen or thermal fabrics and add a lifejacket for an extra layer and further warmth and added insurance in case of capsize.

“All people on open or alpine waters must wear a lifejacket in boats smaller than 4.8 metres.

“If you become hypothermic and are not wearing a lifejacket, there is a high risk you may lose consciousness and drown.

“Obvious signs of hyperthermia are intense shivering, slurred speech, confusion, slowing pulse and dilated eye pupils.”

Mr Mitchell said all boaters should tell a friend or family member where they are intending to go boating and when they expect to be back, or log their trip with Marine Rescue NSW.

For more information on hypothermia and prevention, go to Cold weather boating.

CONTACT: Roads and Maritime Services Media Unit:  8588 5999

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