Save Our Schoolkids: Whirlpool created ‘a drowning machine’
A QUEENSLAND mother who lost her daughter in a river tragedy that was "a parent's worst nightmare'' has relived her anguish in the hope it will help save others.
Deanna Allen has backed a campaign by The Courier-Mail calling for compulsory swimming and water safety and awareness lessons for primary school students.
Experts say Queensland, unlike other states and territories, is failing to provide lifesaving skills and knowledge to young people despite its world-famous aquatic lifestyle.
Ms Allen was devastated when 12-year-old Brandi died in a terrifying misadventure in the Caboolture River in April, 2009.
She has recalled the disaster that claimed her daughter on an Easter Monday holiday.
"If my story can save one life, it will be so worth it,'' she said.
"Brandi was swimming with some friends in the Caboolture River. It had been raining and was flooded.
"The children with her told me they initially swam across to an island and had a close call as they were almost swept away due to the fast-flowing water.
"For the return journey they started further upstream, but Brandi was dragged away and on to the wall of a weir.
"She hung on for a while, but the force of the water was too great and she went over.''
Brandi plunged into a whirlpool at the bottom of the weir that Ms Allen said had created "a drowning machine''.
"It was a parent's worst nightmare. She was spun around in the chaotic water and disappeared. Two days later, her body was found 16km downstream,'' she said.
"Unfortunately, it's the way of humans - we all tend to think we are invincible at times, particularly young people.
"But drowning doesn't discriminate … anyone can get into trouble.
"Children need to be taught to better understand and respect waterways and beaches. The key messages should be only swim where there are lifesavers and lifeguards, stay out of flooded waters and stop, think and consider their safety first before they act.''
Helping Ms Allen cope with the loss was Hannah's Foundation, established and run by Andrew and Katherine Plint, who lost Hannah Plint, aged 34 months, to drowning.
The foundation advocates for water safety nationally in Australia and supports hundreds of families that have experienced a water tragedy.
Mr Plint said swimming lessons and water safety and survival lessons needed to be maintained through the primary years for best effect.
"They should be taught by professionals, not parents, and the program should be broad, so it incorporates safety and encourages positive choices,'' he said.
"Plenty of states and territories do a good job of this and Queensland now needs to step up … kids' lives depend on it.
"Ongoing education of the risks, dangers and consequences that exist around water is vital to the prevention of further drowning accidents.''