Victoria has already experienced its worst summer of drowning deaths after a horror week in the state's waterways.

Forty people have drowned in Victorian waters since July 1, the state's worst year on record and already more than the 34 fatal drownings last financial year.

Five people have drowned in Victoria in the past seven days, which has prompted authorities to issue an urgent water safety message ahead of warmer temperatures across the Australia Day long weekend.

Life Saving Victoria has also extended its service provisions in response to the spate of recent tragedies, with lifesaving capabilities at 18 sites to be extended for an extra four weeks following Australia Day and an expansion of watercraft rescue services.

Since the start of November, Victorian lifesavers have also been involved in 326 rescues and more than 105,000 preventable actions, such as intervening early to stop someone getting into trouble.

The latest tragedy in Victoria came overnight when a man was pulled unresponsive from the water off McLoughlins Beach in South Gippsland by the police air wing after his tinnie capsized.

A woman and teenage boy were also thrown from the vessel and were able to make it to shore, but tragically the 42-year-old man died.

Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said "all of these (drownings) are preventable deaths".

 

Clara Mongelluzzi and her daughter Martina, 3, at Port Melbourne beach on Wednesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty
Clara Mongelluzzi and her daughter Martina, 3, at Port Melbourne beach on Wednesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty

 

"We have seen, since July 1, our worst period in Victorian history in terms of drowning numbers," she said on Wednesday morning.

"There are many things that you can do to prevent this.

"The most important is know the conditions, swim between the flags, know your abilities, don't swim alone, don't drink and swim and look out for toddlers, they can drown in the tiniest amount of water.

"It's not just the beaches and the coastal areas where the conditions are dangerous, it's also in our rivers and our lakes and also in the pools that we've got at home."

Of the 40 drownings so far this financial year, 13 have occurred on the coast, 12 at home and 15 in inland waterways such as rivers and lakes.

 

Aida Hamed, 45, died after being washed off the rocks at Bushrangers Bay. Picture: Facebook
Aida Hamed, 45, died after being washed off the rocks at Bushrangers Bay. Picture: Facebook

 

Eight victims were under the age of five, and another five were aged 14 years old and under.

Four people died following water-related incidents on January 13, including a four-year-old girl found unresponsive in Lysterfield Lake in Melbourne's east.

Mum of four Aida Hamed also tragically drowned last Wednesday after being swept off the rocks at Bushrangers Bay near Cape Schanck on the Mornington Peninsula.

Three other women were also swept off the rocks at Bushrangers Bay and were rescued by off-duty lifesaver Chris Perrott and a former navy member.

 

Chris Perrott jumped into the treacherous water at Bushrangers Bay near Cape Schanck in his boardies when three women and a 13-year-old girl were swept off rocks. Picture: Alex Coppel.
Chris Perrott jumped into the treacherous water at Bushrangers Bay near Cape Schanck in his boardies when three women and a 13-year-old girl were swept off rocks. Picture: Alex Coppel.

Science teacher Lisa Mandeltort was another to lose her life on January 13 as she tried to save a teenage girl who was struggling in the water at Beach 1 in Venus Bay.

Mr Perrott said people needed to be careful when they were around water even if they were not necessarily planning on swimming.

"These people weren't intending on swimming that day, they were planning on just going out and having a look at the rock pools and weren't expecting to be in the water," he said.

Lisa Mandeltort died at Venus Bay on January 13.
Lisa Mandeltort died at Venus Bay on January 13.

 

Life Saving Victoria health promotion and communication general manager Dr Bernadette Matthews said it was an important reminder for everyone to be extra vigilant around water, particularly over the long weekend.

"Behind every one of these numbers is a person, a brother, a sister, a father, a mother, an uncle and an aunty; a drowning affects so many people and it's so tragic, but it doesn't need to happen, drownings are preventable," she said.

Dr Matthews said drowning was a "silent killer" and children often didn't cry out or splash.

"For children under five they always need to be within arm's reach and for children under 10 that they're always in your sight," she said.

jack.paynter@news.com.au

Originally published as Worst year ever for 'silent killer'



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