Our say | Drowning epidemic is our state’s new road toll

SUMMER has not even started and already the Central West has seen the first drowning tragedy of the swimming season.

A four-year-old girl has died after being found motionless in a pool at the Orange Aquatic Centre on Saturday.

Attempts by family and lifesavers to revive her failed, and she was later pronounced deceased at Orange Health Service.

Police have launched an investigation and a report will be prepared for the coroner. Until those processes have run their course there is nothing to be gained by speculating on how this tragedy unfolded, and we can only offer our sincere condolences to all involved.

But few of us can understand the terrible grieving the young girl’s family must be now enduring, having a child taken from them in such circumstances.

That is a pain that will never go away.

But the impacts of such a tragedy in a relatively small community go much further.

There will be ongoing suffering for others who were at the aquatic centre that day; for the pool staff who tried desperately to revive the young girl; and even the emergency services staff who were unable to save a young life,

And what we know already is that this tragedy is a scenario that will be replayed dozens of times across NSW over the next few months.

According to figures from the Royal Life Saving Society, an average of 102 people drown in NSW every year, with summer usually accounting for the highest number of fatalities.

The summer of 2016-17 will be remembered as a particularly bad one for drownings, with 17 deaths over the Christmas and New Year period even outstripping the road toll for the same period.

But we cannot allow drownings to become a normal and acceptable part of summer in Australia.

Just as a growing road toll led to drastic legal changes and a public education blitz in the late 1970s and early 1980s, so too must this epidemic of drownings prompt real action.

While there are many drownings each year at lakes, rivers and beaches, an increasing number of backyard pools across the country also adds to the potential risk of drownings.

Drowning is a real danger, and there are more dangerous places than ever in this country.

We must be vigilant, and we must take the danger seriously.

We’ve managed to cut the road toll, now let’s cut the drowning toll. Because every needless death is one death too many.