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Local News - Victoria

Tourism Australia pulls promotion of Bushrangers Bay after drowning


A 90-minute drive from Melbourne and then accessible only via a 45-minute walk, it is described as Mornington Peninsula’s remotest beach by local surfing mates Sam Kallis and Jack Smolik.

“It’s a high-risk, high-hazard kind of area,” said Mr Smolik, a peninsula resident since birth. “And the fact there’s no lifeguards, it’s so remote there’s not many people coming to save you here. All those factors contribute.”

Above the rock pools at a remote end of the beach is a cliff face that director Spike Jonez featured in the film Where the Wild Things Are.

Three signs on the path to Bushrangers Bay warn of strong currents, powerful surf and dangerous conditions. A red wooden sign at the entrance to the beach reads: “Warning/Danger”. “Sudden large waves. Strong rip currents. Unstable cliff edges.” No information accompanies the rock pools.

Peter Panos had visited Bushrangers Bay and the rock pools on Tuesday with 15 family members ranging in age from 12 to 60. He calls the rock pools the “washing machine”.

“The surf was pretty harsh. We were there at low tide, but there was water smashing around a lot of people swimming and playing around in there,” said Mr Panos, a seasoned fisherman who intentionally visited at low tide.

Drowning victim Aida Hamed.

Drowning victim Aida Hamed.

“One or two struggled to get out of that rockpool, who we assisted. There was a white wash of water and one guy actually sunk because there was a lot of bubbles. He seemed like he was quite confident, but that initial reaction he had when he went under those bubbles of water … I think he himself got a shock. This was when it was relatively safe.”

Ms Hamed was one of three people to die in separate water tragedies on Wednesday. A man in his 80s died after being pulled unconscious from the water at Rye front beach, and a woman in her 20s drowned after helping a teenage girl in distress at Venus Bay in Gippsland.

On Thursday, Tourism Australia asked for internet site Broadsheet to remove its sponsored content promoting Bushrangers Bay as a “lesser known swimming spot to explore”.

“There are lots of places to swim on the Mornington Peninsula, but places like Bushrangers Bay are a little harder to find, which is what makes them so special,” the sponsored content said.

“Walk along the basalt cliffs and cool off in the water at low tide. The rock pools here come in many shapes and sizes – some as big and deep as full-size pools, others small enough for just one to bathe in – all with ocean views.”

A warning sign at Bushrangers Bay.

A warning sign at Bushrangers Bay.Credit:Michael Fowler

Tourism Australia on Thursday extended condolences to Ms Hamed’s family.

“Whilst the reference to cooling off in the water ‘at low tide’ was in line with advice from Life Saving Victoria that Bushrangers Bay is ‘moderately safe when waves are low’, we have requested that Broadsheet remove this content,” a Tourism Australia spokeswoman said.

Tourism Australia’s own website, Australia.com, discourages swimming at Bushrangers Bay and describes the site as a coastal walking destination.

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Life Saving Victoria general manager Liam Krige said he completely understood promoting the “beautiful location”.

“We want people to be able to enjoy these places, but we want them to do so safely. So we want them to look up the safety information … be right across the dangers and don’t underestimate the currents. The sea has the potential to cause you harm at any point so be vigilant about your safety.”

On Thursday, Premier Daniel Andrews urged Victorians to be extra cautious this summer.

“It’s got to be a partnership. It’s a timely, tragic reminder of just how dangerous, our beautiful coastline can be. Please, swim between the flags, please swim in conditions that you know about and are certain about and to your ability,” Mr Andrews said.

He extended his sympathies to the families of the victims and honoured the volunteers and emergency service workers who will “carry the burden of that experience”.

There have been 38 drownings since July 1, with the toll in the past six months surpassing any 12-month total in records going back to 2000.

There were 34 drownings in the 12 months to June 30 last year, according to Life Saving Victoria records.

Emergency Services Commissioner Andrew Crisp said it was possible there were fewer opportunities to head to the beach last summer during the devastating fire season.

Children missed their swimming lessons last year as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, which had also affected people’s fitness and could have contributed to a higher drowning toll, Mr Crisp said.

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Local News - Victoria

Aida Hamed identified as Bushrangers Bay drowning victim


Another friend, Kefayat Nouri, told The Age that Ms Hamed was a “nice, kind and lovely soul”.

The 45-year-old, an employee of Australia Post, was a “much-loved member” of the Lalor post office.

“We are deeply saddened at the passing of Aida Hamed,” a spokesman for Australia Post said.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to Aida’s family and colleagues at this sad time.”

Friends are mourning Ms Hamed.

Friends are mourning Ms Hamed.

Another friend wrote on Facebook: “You will always be my sunshine, my beautiful friend. You were taken from us way too soon.”

Another said Ms Hamed was “loved by everyone” and had “such a beautiful soul and heart”.

“No words can be said to describe the pain of losing you,” another friend wrote. “You brought happiness to everyone that met you with your gorgeous smile and warming heart, we will miss you forever.”

Several helicopters were deployed to the dramatic scene at Bushrangers Bay where two men had jumped into the water to rescue Ms Hamed, her friend and two teenage girls after they were swept into the sea by a large wave.

Victoria Police confirmed a 45-year-old woman, a 47-year-old woman, a 19-year-old woman and a 13-year-old girl had been swept into the sea about 3.30pm on Monday. Two men, aged 28 and 47, then jumped in after them.

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Multiple helicopters from Victoria Police, Life Saving Victoria and Air Ambulance scoured the water for the six people, alongside water police and local lifesavers.

All were pulled from the water, including Ms Hamed. Paramedics transported the five survivors to hospital: four to Frankston Hospital and one to Rosebud Hospital.

Mornington Peninsular Local Area Commander Inspector Janene Denton said if two bystanders hadn’t jumped in to assist the four family members, there might have been more fatalities.

A view from Bushrangers bay lookout at the Mornington Peninsula on Thursday.

A view from Bushrangers bay lookout at the Mornington Peninsula on Thursday.Credit:Paul Jeffers

“If they hadn’t done that, I think more people [would have] drowned, more people [would have] lost their life,” Inspector Denton said.

“It can be very, very hazardous … these waves crept up in this situation.”

Inspector Denton said one of the men, an off-duty lifeguard, grabbed his surfboard and huddled the imperilled swimmers together to keep them afloat until they could be rescued.

Three of the women, including Ms Hamed, were winched out of the water by helicopters. The 13-year-old girl and the two rescuers were pulled into a Victoria Police boat.

In a separate incident, a man in his 80s died on Wednesday after being pulled unconscious from the water at Rye front beach.

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The day’s third drowning happened on Wednesday night at Venus Bay in Gippsland where, police said, a teenage girl was seen struggling in the water about 7.30pm and a number of people entered the water to help her. One of those who went to help, a woman in her 20s, got into trouble herself.

Police said an off-duty lifeguard pulled the woman from the water and started CPR but could not revive her.

All others involved in the incident came out of the water unharmed, including the teenager who had initially been in distress.

Police will prepare reports for the coroner for all three deaths.

Meanwhile, police are also investigating after a three-year-old girl was pulled unconscious from Lysterfield Lake about 5.50pm on Wednesday. Emergency Services worked on the girl and she was revived. She was transferred to the Royal Children’s Hospital and remained in a critical condition on Thursday morning.

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Bushrangers Bay drowning victim identified


A single mother who died when she was swept off rocks into the ocean on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula has been remembered by a friend as “the most beautiful person on earth”.

Aida Hamed, 45, drowned off Bushrangers Bay on Wednesday afternoon after a freak wave washed her and three others into hazardous waters about 3.30pm.

Ms Hamed, of Epping in Melbourne’s north, was visiting the remote beach on a day trip, Victoria Police Inspector Janene Denton said.

It’s understood the Australia Post employee was washed into the sea with a female friend, 47, and her friend’s two daughters, 13 and 19.

The other three survived after the quick thinking by an off-duty lifeguard who dived into the water, with the group clinging to his surfboard.

Ms Hamed was pulled from the water but she could not be revived despite the efforts of emergency services.

One of her friends, Leyla Shi, told NCA NewsWire that Ms Ahmed was “the most beautiful person on earth”.

“She had a beautiful heart,” Ms Shi said.

“She was a single mother of four kids. She loved life and travelling – a beautiful soul.”

Inspector Denton said there would have been more deaths “without doubt” if not for the bravery of two men, aged 24 and 48, who dived in after the group.

The 24-year-old hero, an off-duty lifeguard, was able to use his surfboard as a makeshift flotation device that the struggling family clung to until police arrived.

A 48-year-old man also leapt into the water to help.

Neither men knew each other but didn’t think twice about working together to save strangers’ lives, Inspector Denton said.

“They’re (the rescuers) doing fine, it was huge effort on their behalf and a really brave act,” she said.

Inspector Denton referred to Ms Ahmed as the “aunty” of the two teenagers rescued at the scene.

“They’re still receiving care,” she said.

“They were just swept off by a really large wave. It’s a treacherous place, it’s a hazardous place – it can be calm and it can turn quite rough. I wouldn’t call it unusual.

“The size of the wave has completely taken them by surprise.”

An Australia Post spokesperson said the organisation was “deeply saddened” by Ms Hamed’s death.

“She was a much-loved member of Australia Post’s Lalor licensed post office. We extend our deepest sympathies to Aida’s family and colleagues at this sad time,” the statement said.

Inspector Denton said the incident was a reminder of the dangers involved in swimming at remote and un-patrolled locations like Bushrangers Bay.

“It’s actually very difficult for emergency services to get in there. Swim where the beaches are patrolled,” he said.



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Three dead, six rescued in Victorian water tragedies at Bushrangers Bay, Venus Bay and Rye


Police said an off-duty lifeguard pulled the woman from the water and started CPR but could not revive her. Victoria Police said late on Wednesday they would probe the death and send findings to the coroner.

In the first drowning, police confirmed a man in his 80s was pulled from the water at Tootgarook about 4pm on Wednesday, but he was unable to be revived.

Several helicopters were deployed to a dramatic scene at Bushrangers Bay at Cape Schanck on the Mornington Peninsula where two men had jumped into the water trying to rescue a group of four women and girls who were swept into the sea by a large wave.

Victoria Police confirmed a 45-year-old woman, a 47-year-old woman, a 19-year-old woman and a 13-year-old girl were swept into the sea about 3.30pm. They were followed by two men, aged 28 and 47, who entered the water to assist the group of four in distress.

Multiple helicopters from Victoria Police, Life Saving Victoria and Air Ambulance scoured the water for the six people, alongside water police and local lifesavers.

All were pulled from the water, including the deceased 45-year-old woman.

The same spot where the group of four were washed away, according to an eyewitness.

The same spot where the group of four were washed away, according to an eyewitness.

A witness, who did not wish to be named, told The Age two men jumped in after the group to help.

“They climbed to the rock, then [a] big wave came, and swept them off into the water,” they said.

The witness said the waves crashing against the rocks were large at the time of the incident.

Life Saving Victoria’s General Manager of Lifesaving Services Liam Krige said crews arrived on scene about 4pm and began winching two of the people to a nearby headland, where they were met by paramedics.

Air Ambulance and other emergency services on scene on Wednesday.

Air Ambulance and other emergency services on scene on Wednesday.Credit:Nine News Melbourne

Only two people could be transported at a time due to the capacity of the helicopter, he said.

“In the interim, an LSV lifeguard paddled to two of the remaining swimmers, keeping them afloat on their rescue board while the helicopter crews continued the winching operation,” he said.

“At around 4.30pm, Air Ambulance also arrived on scene and commenced winching a further person from the water.

“Shortly after, Police Air Wing and Water Police arrived on scene by boat and collected the final two swimmers, the LSV lifeguard and a bystander who had entered the water to assist.”

Aerial footage from the scene on Wednesday.

Aerial footage from the scene on Wednesday.Credit:Nine News Melbourne

Paramedics transported the five survivors to hospital: four to Frankston Hospital and one to Rosebud Hospital.

Frankston hospital was treating the 47-year-old woman who was reported to be in a serious but stable condition on Wednesday night, along with the 19-year-old woman and a 13-year-old girl.

Life Saving Victoria’s Mr Kriger said he and his staff’s thoughts were with those affected by the tragedy.

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“This incident is a stark reminder of the importance of always exercising caution around water and never taking your eyes off the surf,” he said. “Many people who are rescued never planned on entering the water.”

“Even when you don’t intend on swimming, you should never underestimate the power of the ocean.

“Bushrangers Bay is an unpatrolled beach located at a remote stretch of coastline, making it difficult for emergency services to access if you get into trouble.”

The beach is known for its dangerous conditions.

Bushrangers Bay is not patrolled by Life Saving Victoria, according to beachsafe.org.au.

The service describes the 300m beach as “moderately safe” for swimming when waves are low.

“However stay on the bar and clear of the rocks, and rips against the rocks,” the advice reads.

In January 2019, Melbourne musician Jjay De Melo drowned while swimming with a friend at Bushrangers Bay.

In 2017 seven people were swept off the rocks by a large wave, with one man airlifted to hospital in a critical condition.

On the back of a record number of drownings last year, the Victorian government launched a campaign targeting the two most at-risk groups – younger males from non-English speaking backgrounds with limited water skills and “complacent” middle-aged men.

Venus Bay drowning

At Venus Bay south-east of Melbourne, police said a teenage girl was seen struggling in the water about 7.30pm and a number of people entered the water to help her. One of those, a woman in her 20s, got into trouble herself.

The woman was pulled from the water by an off duty lifeguard and she was given CPR but couldn’t be revived.

All others involved in the incident came out of the water unharmed, including the teen who had initially been in distress.

Police will prepare reports for the coroner for all three deaths.

Meanwhile, police are investigating after a three-year-old girl was pulled unconscious from Lysterfield Lake about 5.50pm on Wednesday. Emergency Services worked on the girl and she was revived. She was transferred to the Royal Children’s Hospital and remained in a critical condition on Thursday morning.

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