8 May 2024

Illawarra maritime staff jump in the pool for boater safety awareness

| Zoe Cartwright
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Deon Voyer, principal manager at Maritime South - and some rather damp staff members.

Deon Voyer, principal manager at Maritime South – and some rather damp staff members. Photo: Zoe Cartwright.

Illawarra NSW Maritime staff made a splash on Tuesday 7 May – all for a good cause.

Eight game staff members took the ‘lifejacket leap’ to highlight the importance of lifejackets for maritime safety and develop a better understanding of which jackets are most effective for different scenarios.

Fortunately for them their plunge was into the heated pool at Beaton Park Leisure Centre, rather than the chilly ocean.

Deon Voyer, principal manager at Maritime South said everyone was happy to get their hair wet if it helped save lives on the water.

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“People use vessels for a variety of activities, from jet skis to towing a wakeboard or fishing,” he said.

“There are lifejacket types for different activities and our staff were keen to get that firsthand experience so they can tell their customers the best lifejacket for them to use on the water.

“It is the mandatory and essential lifesaving appliance on board the vessel.”

One of the jumpers was left in a spot of bother after his aging lifejacket failed to inflate properly – a timely reminder to those who spend time on the water to keep their gear in good condition, and replace it as needed.

The activity came after the number of boating-related deaths doubled from seven last financial year to 14 since July 2023.

Of those, 11 were not wearing lifejackets.

The event also followed a boating incident off Coalcliff on 27 April involving two men and a teenager, whose lifejackets kept them afloat until they were rescued by a helicopter.

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Deon said the key takeaways were that lifejackets were for everyone and they needed to be worn.

“There can be a little bit of overconfidence: ‘This isn’t going to happen to me’, and there may be a little discomfort as well,” Deon said.

“But we look at seatbelt laws that have evolved over the years and lifejackets are much the same.

“They’re much more comfortable and accessible now, and our statistics show if you’re wearing a lifejacket and get into trouble on the water your chances of being rescued are much, much higher.

“Unforeseen circumstances can put things out of your control, maybe some watertight fittings have deteriorated and start to let in water.

“When things do go wrong you need to have your lifejacket on – it can only save your life if you’re wearing it.”

The eight staff members who took the plunge had a hot shower and a debrief to look forward to after the event.

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