December 30, 2019 15:04:53
The small WA holiday town of Guilderton 90 kilometres north of Perth has been rocked by the death of a seven-year-old girl who drowned in a river while on an outing with her family yesterday.
- It is understood the girl and her family were on a day trip from Perth
- Holidaymakers joined a desperate search after she went missing from her parents
- There are no lifeguards on duty in the area, which is known for dangerous currents
The alarm was raised after the girl wandered away from her parents and other family members who were at the main picnic area on the busy Moore River beachfront.
Word of the girl’s disappearance spread quickly among holidaymakers and locals who had gathered at the waterfront.
Members of the public joined in the search, taking to the estuary on runabout boats and flying drones over the water.
The girl was recovered unconscious from the water just before 4:00pm.
Desperate attempt to save girl
ABC producer Alex Hyman was visiting the area with his own family.
“Some men came out of the water carrying a young girl and the screams went up from the family,” he said.
“It was quite an awful thing to hear.”
Paramedics spent some time attempting to resuscitate the girl, but she could not be saved.
Mr Hyman said word of the girl’s death spread quickly among other holidaymakers.
“Everyone on the coastline was really anxious about what was taking place and had been obviously hoping for the best,” he said.
“A lot of people took a moment to gather their thoughts and within half an hour about three quarters of those who’d been at the beach had packed up and left.
“Most people thought it wasn’t a place to be anymore.”
Witness scoured location with drone
Adam Hewson was riding his bike along the foreshore when he noticed the commotion.
“I saw a lady coming along here who was screaming and in a panic. She was inconsolable,” he said.
“Another lady came and said her daughter’s missing.
“We heard some really horrible, sad sounds coming from there.”
Mr Hewson sent his drone up to search the water from above.
“I did a sweeping pattern of the mouth [of the river] in the hope to point the boat in the right direction,” he said.
“We just couldn’t see anything, there was nothing.”
He said an eerie silence descended on the area once the girl’s body was recovered.
“This foreshore was packed full of people and everyone just disappeared in a matter of minutes,” he said.
“The whole campsite was deathly quiet after that for hours. Everyone went to bed early.
“It was very sombre and very sad.”
Mr Hewson said he could hear the girl’s mother wailing from the sandbar, which was almost 500 metres away from where he was standing.
“I couldn’t imagine going on holidays with both of my kids and coming back with one,” he said.
“A lot of people are cherishing their children a lot more today. I know I gave [mine] an extra big hug last night before they went to bed.
“You just value life a little bit more when something like this happens.”
About 50 joined search for child
Gingin Shire President Wayne Fewster expressed his condolences to the family and thanked the members of the public who tried to help.
“I can’t imagine the pain that this family is going through. I think about that and it sends shivers up my spine,” Mr Fewster said.
“I understand about 50 people helped out, or attempted to help out, trying to find the girl for a start and then resuscitate her.
“It’s very traumatic for them as well. I certainly thank them, on behalf of council and the community, for their efforts.”
Mr Fewster said the popular swimming spot had been particularly quiet today.
“People are just taking the time to reflect and paying their respects to the family as well I think,” he said.
Location known for dangerous currents
It’s understood the girl’s family are south Asian migrants who were visiting Guilderton on a day trip.
There is no lifeguard on duty in the area where the girl drowned, although there are warning signs along the estuary alerting swimmers to strong currents, shallow waters and sudden drop offs.
Mr Hyman said yesterday’s conditions were calm.
“It’s not open to the ocean at the moment so in the river conditions were fine,” he said.
“The water is quite dark and brown in parts so visibility is not great, but certainly there were no strong currents that I noticed.
“You’d still have to be a reasonable swimmer because it does get deep, especially as you go out to the pontoon.”
‘Hidden danger’ in rivers, lakes
Royal Life Saving WA said it was the second drowning death in Western Australia this month, after a man died while diving off North Beach last week.
“This is a very tragic reminder of just how vitally important it is for parents and carers of young children to keep close watch of their children around water locations at all times,” spokeswoman Lauren Nimmo said.
“Drowning can happen quickly and silently and can even affect those who are good swimmers — especially over the holiday period when people are swimming in locations that are not familiar to them.
“Rivers and lakes are especially dangerous as there can be hidden dangers and strong currents that may not be immediately evident from the surface.”
December 30, 2019 13:14:44