Water decisions proving deadly for young men

Last updated 12:00 09/01/2014

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Risky behaviour by men is being blamed for their death rate from drowning.

Statistics from Water Safety New Zealand show three people drowned in Manawatu last year, all of them male.

Water Safety chief executive Matt Claridge said there were two problem groups for drowning in New Zealand - preschoolers and men.

While preschooler drownings were often because children were left unsupervised, men's problems were more complex, he said.

It often came down to men taking risks with the weather or rushing out to the water without being properly prepared.

When they got in trouble, they were then unable to take care of themselves, he said.

"It could be that ‘she'll be right' attitude."

One of the men to drown last year in the region was Jarrett Simeon, who died at Himatangi Beach on January 5.

The 28-year-old had smoked the synthetic cannabis product K2 before entering the water, prompting coroner Tim Scott to say it should be banned.

"To go swimming after consuming K2, in my view, is something akin to going swimming after drinking alcohol - not a smart thing to do and perhaps lethal, depending on quantity," Mr Scott said in his report into Mr Simeon's death."

Mr Claridge said swimming after taking synthetic cannabis should be treated the same as swimming after drinking.

"Alcohol is what gets people into the water and into a lot of trouble."

Changing attitudes to drinking and entering the water would not solve the drowning issue - only 14 per cent of drownings are alcohol-related, and New Zealand has one of the worst drowning rates in the developed world - but increased education around general safety and swimming skills would make a big difference, he said.

"People need to take responsibility for their actions."

Nationally, 81 people drowned in 2013 - down from 98 in 2012 and the lowest number since records began in 1980. But Mr Claridge said the figure was still too high.

"I'm sure all New Zealanders would agree that 81 deaths is 81 too many."

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- Manawatu Standard


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