The tragic drowning of 42-year-old Peter (Pace) Abd-El-Kaddous at Wagga Beach late last year has prompted a review of river safety.
Council, in consultation with Royal Lifesaving Australia, will investigate options for safer swimming at Wagga Beach and Wiradjuri Reserve.
The investigation will examine the feasibility of reinstating a lifeguard, an annual river safety program and safety signage.
At Monday’s council meeting, councillor Vanessa Keenan said she hoped this would be the last time “we are reactive to a drowning in our river and that we take action now to do our best to reduce the risk for residents and visitors alike”.
“Pace’s tragic death has impacted not only on his friends and family but the Wagga community as a whole,” Cr Keenan said.
“Since 2002… in the Murrumbidgee River, there have been 18 deaths, eight of those right here in Wagga.
“Drownings occur more often in rivers and inland waterways than at beaches or in backyard pools.”
Cr Keenan hoped Wagga could embrace a volunteer-run safety programs like Bush Nippers in Orange, where “safety is talked about regularly”.
“The Bush Nippers teach local kids safety in inland waterways and have an established relationship with the Dee Why Surf Club, where each year the Bush Nippers travel to the coast to learn about beach safety,” she said.
Councillor Tim Koschel read aloud a message from his former schoolmate and Pace’s wife of three years, Fleur Abd-El-Kaddous.
“Pace was a great swimmer and had saved plenty of people from the surf at Melbourne beaches, but that doesn’t make him exempt from river conditions,” Cr Koschel read.
Mrs Abd-El-Kaddous said “signs are useless”, and suggested “some sort of flotation device while swimming is the best solution, but it can’t be mandatory” and “a lifesaver at the rocks” or someone “out of the goodness of their hearts” informing swimmers of the dangers.
Deputy mayor Dallas Tout pushed for the investigation of multi-lingual safety signs.