Local News - Victoria

Victorian beach users ignoring safety signs amid record drowning death toll

“These findings highlight the importance of using multiple risk management strategies to prevent drowning and aquatic injuries, such as signage, public awareness campaigns, education and lifeguard services,” she said.


Dr Matthews urged beachgoers to read signs carefully and learn the risks before swimming.

“Our advice to beachgoers and waterway users is that every beach and waterway has different hazards, so we do urge you to take time to read safety signs, to understand the local hazards, before entering the water.”

The responsibility for displaying signs at waterways lies with the land managers rather than Life Saving Victoria, but the service can provide recommendations about signs and other matters including education.

Forty-two people have drowned since July last year, including seven in the past 10 days, making it the most deadly six-month period on record. The toll is also 15 more than the five-year average.

On Saturday a 58-year-old man died near Anglesea after heading out with another man in a small boat that overturned. His companion made it back to shore. On the same day a man was pulled from the water at Thirteenth Beach near Barwon Heads after getting into trouble. He died at the scene.

Rescue crews were called to an Anglesea beach after a small boat capsized just after 2pm on Saturday.

Rescue crews were called to an Anglesea beach after a small boat capsized just after 2pm on Saturday.Credit:Nine News

While zero to 14 is the age group most at risk of drowning, authorities are also increasingly worried about men under the age of 45 who “overestimate” their abilities.

For the past decade, emergency services have been grappling with a “disturbing trend” among drowning victims who have fallen into the water from boats. Seventy-five per cent of those who died due to a boating accident were either not wearing a life jacket or were wearing it incorrectly, according to Cameron Toy, the director of Transport Safety Victoria.


“The message here is: wear a life jacket even if it’s not required by law,” Mr Toy said. “We would really like to see people starting to get into the habit of putting a life jacket on because … it’s when you unexpectedly enter the water that things go wrong and you really want to avoid that.”

Mr Toy was at The Warmies in Newport with Fishing and Boating Minister Melissa Horne on Monday morning to highlight water safety messaging.

He said research conducted for his department consistently revealed men under the age of 45 were over-represented in drowning figures, fuelled by the cohort “overestimating” their abilities in the water. He said Transport Safety Victoria had also investigated the effectiveness of warning signs at waterways and found people were not paying attention to the messages.

“[The research] tells us that unless the message changes regularly, people won’t pay any attention to it,” Mr Toy said.

“Signage is a good way of getting messages across, but it’s not the only way. That’s why we’re pretty heavily involved in partnering with other agencies, using social media to get our messaging out, and it’s not just something for us to do – we really rely on a whole-of-government approach for that.”

The department has also looked at embedding boat safety in school curriculums, but has not struck a formal deal with the Education Department.

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Local News - Victoria

Two dead after boating, drowning accidents at Anglesea and Barwon Heads

Two men have died in separate drowning accidents in Victoria.

A man died after being was pulled from the water on Thirteenth beach in Barwon Heads on Saturday afternoon.

Police believe he was swimming with two other people about 5pm when they got into difficulty in the water.

They say a boy and a girl were assisted back to shore while the man was winched out of the water by chopper. The man died at the scene.

Earlier, a man died after being located in water off Anglesea.

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Local News - Victoria

Man dies after tinnie capsizes as Victoria breaks drowning records

Victoria’s horror year for drownings continues with the body of a man retrieved by police after his tinnie capsized in waters off Gippsland overnight.

The man, a woman and a teenage boy were all thrown overboard in waters off Darriman, in Victoria’s east, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The woman and teen were able to make it to shore but the 42-year-old man did not. He was found by the police Air Wing in waters off McLoughlins Beach, about 60 kilometres from Traralgon but was unable to be revived.

The state’s latest drowning comes after a four-year-old Doveton girl, who was pulled unconscious from a lake on January 13, died.

The girl is now one of four people who died as a result of water incidents on January 13 after drownings at Rye front beach, Bushrangers Bay and Venus Bay.

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Local News - Victoria

Girl dies, bringing Victoria’s horror drowning day toll to four

Confirmation of the fourth death comes as families and friends have paid tribute to others who lost their lives last week.


Lisa Mandeltort, a teacher at Nossal High School in Berwick, was described by her family and colleagues as an inspiring mentor. She died helping to rescue a 14-year-old girl at Venus Bay on the South Gippsland Coast.

Ms Mandeltort was able to help the teen and another man make it safely back to shore but ended up in distress herself and was pulled from the water unable to be resuscitated.

In another dramatic rescue attempt on the Mornington Peninsula, 45-year-old postal worker Aida Hamed lost her life after being swept off rocks by a wave at Bushrangers Bay.

Several helicopters were deployed to the 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.


A man in his 80s, who has not been identified publicly, was pulled unconscious from Rye front beach and was unable to be saved.

The horror day on Victorian waters prompted urgent pleas from Life Saving Victoria and the state government for swimmers to take care.

Reports for all four deaths will be prepared for the coroner.

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Australian News

13-year-old girl dies after drowning

A young girl has died in hospital after being pulled unconscious from a public pool on Friday afternoon in the NSW’s Hunter Valley.

Emergency services were called to the Maitland Aquatic Centre about 3.30pm, when paramedics took over from lifeguards who had been performing CPR on the 13-year-old.

The girl was transferred to the John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle in a critical condition.

At 8.30pm, police confirmed the girl had died.

The identity of the 13-year-old has not been released at this stage and NSW Police are investigating the cause of the death.

A report will be prepared for the coroner.

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Australian News

Mornington Peninsula drowning victim family’s border pain

Aida Hamed, who tragically drowned on the Mornington Peninsula on Wednesday, was “loved by everyone”, her daughter-in-law says.

But Alisar Najem and her partner, Aida’s son Daniel Hamed, feared they would be blocked from saying goodbye to Aida at her funeral because of border closures.

Ms Najem was told “we are going to terminate your call” and hung up on twice while pleading for an exemption with the Victorian health department’s COVID-19 hotline, she said.

She spoke to different hotline staff members on Thursday and Friday.

Both hung up on her when she wouldn’t take “we can’t help you” for an answer, she said.

Ms Najem and Mr Hamad, both 25, struggled for two days to get a definite answer on whether they could enter Victoria for the funeral.

She repeatedly contacted Service NSW, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, the supplied email address for Victorian border exemption permits and the COVID hotline, but was consistently told “we don’t know”.

“We have tried every government department — I’m not joking,” she said.

“It’s really frustrating because, what do you mean, you don’t know? Who can help us?

“There’s no compassion. Why aren’t they being trained to have compassion?”

She said DHHS called her at 5.40pm on Friday before her planned 6pm flight to Melbourne confirming they would be able to enter Victoria for the funeral, after Ms Najem spoke to media.

Ms Najem first called at 7am on Thursday and kept trying until she received the answer, she said.

Aida Hamed died aged 45 when a wave swept her and three others into the ocean from rocks at Bushrangers Bay, about 100 km south of Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula, about 3.30pm on Wednesday.

A woman aged 47 and her two daughters aged 13 and 19 — who called Aida “aunty” — survived when an off-duty lifeguard aged 24 and another man aged 48 leapt into the ocean to intervene.

The lifeguard used his surfboard as a flotation device which the family clung to until they could be reached by a winch and the marine rescue boat.

Police said the quick-thinking actions “without doubt” prevented more deaths during the terrifying incident.

But despite the two men’s heroic efforts and those of police and paramedics, Aida could not be saved.

She was a single mum of four children: three in Victoria and one, Daniel, in Sydney.

Before the DHHS confirmation, Ms Najem told NCA NewsWire: “Everyone is saying different things — we’re taking a chance and going to the airport”.

She said Daniel, her fiance, was “numb and sad” since the death and had not had time to mourn “because he’s just trying to get to Melbourne”.

“His siblings are all in Victoria. He’s distraught and needs the emotional support of his family,” she said.

“I’m trying to support him — it is draining, I’m just trying to get him to Melbourne. That’s my priority right now. He needs his siblings because they know what he’s going through.”

She said they each had a COVID test which was negative, and lived in the Sydney suburbs of Bass Hill and Macquarie Fields respectively.

She said Aida was Muslim and it was extremely important for her to be buried as soon as possible in keeping with her religious beliefs.

“But that’s something they obviously don’t care about,” she said.

“We all have the right to freedom of religion and the right to religious practices — that’s something else they should take into consideration.

“Telling us, ‘we’re going to terminate the call’ — it’s not right.”

The funeral was supposed to be held on Friday, but had already been pushed to Saturday so Mr Hamed would be able to go.

“If this is not urgent then I don’t know what urgent is,” she said.

After the tragic death, Ms Amed’s friend Leyla Shi said she 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.”

Victoria Police Inspector Janene Denton said Bushrangers Bay had unpredictable weather conditions and could turn from calm to rough in an instant.

Ms Hamed was visiting the spot on a day trip from where she lived in Epping in Melbourne’s north.

“The size of the wave has completely taken them by surprise,” Inspector Denton said.

“(It) is a reminder of the danger of those type of areas. It’s not a patrolled beach and the dangers are magnified by the remoteness of the location. It’s actually very difficult for emergency services to get in there.”

She praised the “really brave act” of the two men — who didn’t know each other — risking their own safety to save the family who survived.

“We have passed on our absolute gratitude,” she said.

A DHHS spokeswoman said that they could not comment on individual cases.

“We cannot comment on individual cases but exemptions requested on compassionate grounds are top priority and processed as quickly as possible – our thoughts are with the family during this difficult time,” she said.

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Australian News

Hero cop in Blue Mountains drowning farewelled

A heroic police officer who drowned while trying to save a woman from a whirlpool in the Blue Mountains has been awarded the state’s highest bravery medal at her emotional funeral.

Senior Constable Kelly Foster was remembered on Thursday as a “one of a kind” daughter and sister who loved the outdoors and had a smile that lit up the room.

Speaking on behalf of the family at the Lithgow Uniting Church, her sister Leigh thanked the community for its “outpouring of grief” since the loss of the beloved 39-year-old.

Members of Constable Foster’s close-knit family and friends gathered to say their last goodbyes after she died in a tragic canyoning incident near Mount Wilson on January 2.

Constable Foster and the other woman, student Jennifer Qi, who also drowned, were members of a canyoning tour group on the Wollangambe River that day.

The off-duty officer attempted to rescue the woman but was also tipped into the water.

Both women were sucked into a whirlpool and their bodies were recovered by police divers the following day.

Those close to the beloved cop embraced each other at the Lithgow church, which heard of a proud and dedicated police officer who was a loving sister, daughter, partner and friend.

“She was one of a kind – tough when she needed to be but selfless, always protecting the people around her,” Leigh Foster said.

Ms Foster said that kind-heartedness was evident throughout Kelly’s life, from her first role as a protective big sister to her early career as a teacher and then as a police officer.

“She overcame the challenges in her life with grit and resilience and with a smile that lit up her whole face – and every room that she entered – and a laugh that was infectious.”

Strangers lined the streets for the funeral procession and marching escort through the heart of the NSW town after the service.

Constable Foster’s coffin was carried into the church draped with the Australian flag by uniformed NSW Police colleagues, while others carried her medals.

Spaces around Lithgow were decorated with blue balloons and streamers as a mark of respect to the fallen hero.

Leigh Foster said her sister, an avid bushwalker, had found her “paradise” when she moved to Katoomba in 2017 and used the Blue Mountains home as a base for adventure.

It was a mutual love for the outdoors that brought Constable Foster and Ms Qi, 24, to the canyon in which they both perished, Leigh Foster said.

Ms Qi, a software engineer, had made plans to travel the outback and to go free diving with her friends.

“Our hearts go out to Jenny’s family and friends who are also grieving at this time,” Ms Foster said.

“We will remain forever connected by this tragedy and our shared grief.”

She thanked emergency services who worked feverishly to locate the women’s bodies and said their kindness had made the loss that touch more “bearable”.

A breast cancer survivor and 10-year veteran of the police force, Constable Foster began her career at Newtown in 2010 and had was stationed at Lithgow at the time of her death.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller delivered her valedictory, saying she served her community and state with “outstanding dedication and devotion to duty” throughout her career.

He posthumously conferred upon her the Commissioner’s Valour Award, the state’s highest bravery award.

“She was a shining example of an officer who truly upheld our policing traditions of professionalism, commitment, honour and courage,” he said.

Throughout her career, she was involved in high-profile tactical operations including the Lindt Cafe siege and worked busting sexual criminals in the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Squad.

Her tragic death sparked an outpouring of grief and sympathy across the country, with NSW Police Minister David Elliot describing her final moments as “a truly heroic act that will never be forgotten”.

Constable Foster’s family urged those who wished to support the family to do so by donating to Police Legacy: visit the website.

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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,, discourages swimming at Bushrangers Bay and describes the site as a coastal walking destination.


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.


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.


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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Australian News

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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