Death sparks calls for improved safety measures at The Pass

Ambulance officers aid a man who was injured at The Pass, Byron Bay, on Sunday, and passed away in hospital yesterday.
Ambulance officers aid a man who was injured at The Pass, Byron Bay, on Sunday, and passed away in hospital yesterday. Simon Hunter

THE Byron Bay surfing community is grappling with the tragic news that the 36-year-old Gold Coast surfer injured at The Pass on Sunday was officially pronounced dead yesterday.

The death of the man, who was hit by his board on Sunday then dragged from the surf unconscious, has sparked calls for increased safety measures to be put into place at the well-known surfing break.

Following the tragedy, local surfers described an over-crowded and chaotic scene in the water at The Pass on Sunday and called for restrictions on beginners surfing the break.

There has also been renewed discussion for helmets and leg ropes to be worn - a discussion that was also raised after the 2010 accident at The Pass that left 10-year-old surfer, Pascal Dattler with massive head injuries.

Well-known Byron Bay personalised surfing instructor Rusty Miller yesterday agreed inexperienced surfers could be a problem at The Pass, and he is calling for a permanent lifeguard to be on duty at the popular spot all year round.

"I drove by The Pass on Sunday and I saw it was super-crazy," Mr Miller said.

"The problem that we need to address as a shire is that The Pass has become one of the most famous beaches in the world.

"It is marketed as a feature destination and yet we don't have a lifeguard there all year.

"Good lifeguards are perceptive and they can help regulate things; they can paddle out and make relatively informed decisions about who should be in the waves and who shouldn't. The Pass really needs this."

Mr Miller said he had raised the idea before, but the question of funding the lifeguard was the issue.

The Pass is within the Byron Bay State Conservation Area and funding for lifeguards is decided by Byron Shire Council in partnership with the Cape Byron Trust, said Matt Miller, media and communications co-ordinator for Surf Life Saving NSW.

"Currently The Pass has one lifeguard on from Schoolies in November through to Australia Day (January) plus the Easter holidays," he said.

In 2013, the council had the lifeguard service at Main Beach extended to nine months of the year.

Topics:  byron bay surfing surf safety the pass

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