Tributes were left at Airlie Beach Lagoon after a 30-year-old Chinese man and his five-year-old son drowned there on October 28 last year.
Tributes were left at Airlie Beach Lagoon after a 30-year-old Chinese man and his five-year-old son drowned there on October 28 last year. Monique Preston

Investigation continues one year on from lagoon drownings

TODAY marks one year since the tragic drowning of a Chinese father and his son in the Airlie Beach Lagoon.

The community was left reeling in the wake of the drownings and floral tributes were left by the waterside to honour the two who sadly lost their lives.

The shock deaths, which occurred on a Sunday afternoon, are still under investigation as a Coroner's report is still being prepared.

A Whitsunday Regional Council spokesman said the drownings were part of an ongoing investigation by the Coroner and given this, the council could not comment prior to the findings being handed down.

According to police at the time, CCTV footage showed the 30-year-old man piggybacking his five-year-old son, as they slowly walked into the water in the shallows before entering deeper water.

Whitsunday Police Inspector at the time, Steve O'Connell, said neither the man or boy could swim and CCTV footage showed it was about six minutes until it was identified the pair were under the water.

Insp O'Connell said the father was pulled from the water first by lifeguards and members of the public jumped in to help resuscitate him.

It was another few minutes before the boy was retrieved from the water, with efforts to save him too.

The wife and mother had been at the lagoon, but left to get a drink when the incident occurred.

Shortly after the incident, Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Andrew Willcox said two lifeguards were on duty at the time of the drowning, with less than 100 people in the lagoon at the time.

This was "above best practice", he said at the time.

As the warm weather approaches and families prepare to spend more time by the water, Airlie Beach Swim Centre owner and director Annika Grunwald said it was important for everyone to understand water safety.

One vital lesson taught was the changes between gravity in water compared to on land and people who had never experienced water before did not have the balance to come back to the surface, she said.

"Some people don't know how to stand," Ms Grunwald said.

"Falling over and coming back up is something you learn."

Ms Grunwald said supervision around water was also essential.

She said it was imperative children under 12 years were always supervised, but said it was also important for adults.

"Even I can swim, but I like to be supervised. I can get a heart attack, a stroke, or a cramp," she said.



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