Carnivals may enfore helmet rule

IRONMEN could be required to wear flotation devices and helmets in future surf craft events.

These were two of the recommendations that state coroner Michael Barnes handed down yesterday afternoon following the inquest into the death of young NSW lifesaver Saxon Bird.

The 19-year-old was knocked unconscious by a surf ski in dangerous conditions at the Australian Surf Life Saving Championship at Kurrawa on the Gold Coast on March 19 last year.

Mr Barnes said there was “compelling evidence” that conditions were unsuited to the competition continuing on the day Mr Bird died.

He ruled out suggestions that financial considerations influenced organisers not to relocate the event.

Mr Barnes said the carnival committee “underestimated the size, power and turbulence of the surf”.

He recommended that safety be paramount in future.

“Event officials should be required to suspend competition whenever there is a reasonable basis for concluding there is a risk of serious injury,” he said.

Surf Lifesaving Queensland president Ralph Devlin – a long-term Maroochydore Surf Club member – said the organisation was satisfied the report was “fair” and the idea of flotation vests and helmets would be “revisited”.

Mr Devlin said flotation devices could create another hazard for competitors.

“If they are actively trying to avoid other craft their ability to dive deep is hindered,” he said.

Helmets also posed problems.

“At this stage we haven’t come up with a viable safe model,” Mr Devlin said.

“We can’t work with a bike helmet as if you go under it could drown you as it fills with water. It needs to be light, but strong enough.”



Make safety paramount: “Event officials should be required to suspend competition whenever there is a reasonable basis for concluding there is a risk of serious injury”

Continuing review of safety devices: “I recommend SLSA collaborate with the designers of (flotation) devices with a view to making the wearing of them compulsory once the organisation is satisfied they are suitable. Consideration should also be given to the use of helmets by competitors in surf craft events.”

Queensland Police Service SARMC: QPS contingent at large surf lifesaving events includes at least one officer with advanced marine search and rescue training that will equip the officer to plan and co-ordinate the emergency response

Surf patrols for marine missing persons: SLSA investigate whether surf patrols could coordinate a search by swimmers for a person missing in the sea as an alternative to a search by power craft in appropriate cases

State Coroner, Michael Barnes

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