Rabih saved one woman from drowning, but wishes he could have helped two more

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun5,2024
Cape Solander, in Kurnell, just south of Botany Bay is a popular whale-watching spot.
Inside the Kamay Botany Bay National Park, the picturesque location draws locals and tourists alike. 
On the King’s Birthday public holiday on 10 June, it was chosen as a picnic site for three women and their families.

Two of them died, swept away while sightseeing near a rock platform.

A third was saved by a bystander.
Rabih Wassinne heard the calls for help — called Triple Zero, grabbed a flotation device and was able to save one woman who is recovering in hospital.
He told SBS Malayalam he is glad to have saved a life, but wished he could have done more.
“It’s the first time ever in my life that I see something like this happening in front of me: people drowning in the water and yelling for help,” Wassinne said.
“It wasn’t easy to see this.”
He said the waves were very rough, particularly near the rocks.
“Everybody would be happy to save someone’s life. But at the same time, I am very sad that I couldn’t help the other two that drowned in the water.”

Both women are Australian citizens originally from Kerala, in southern India — much-loved members of the Malayalee Muslim community — and mothers to three young children.

Family friend Ahmed Kaithal Shahir says the death of the two women is an immense loss.
He said the local community is arranging local funeral services.
They are also appealing to authorities to expedite the visa approvals for the next of kin to arrive in Australia to recover the bodies and make the next arrangements.
“It is an unmeasurable loss.
“We are in this together. All of our community members, A to Z, everyone is working hard to coordinate and help, trying to get visa process for the families because we want to bring them here ASAP.” 
Joe McNulty, chief of the New South Wales Police Marine Area Command, says emergency responders arrived on the scene within 15 minutes, but it was too late to save the lives of the two women.
“They were there enjoying a walk along a rock platform.
“They probably didn’t take into account the low tide and the extremely slippery rock platform when that wave hit them.”

He said the pressure of the wave was “huge” and unexpected.

More education on water safety urged

Two weeks ago two Nepalese men who went rock fishing also died at the same location.

McNulty says there is signage in place, but it is – at times – ignored.

A white, red and yellow sign near the ocean.

Experts say ocean signage may not be enough to help educate people about the risks of drowning in Australia. Source: AAP / Bianca de Marchi

He urged community leaders and the media to assist the police in spreading the message of water safety.

Steven Pearce is the Chief Executive of Surf Life Saving New South Wales. 
He says lifesavers were part of the emergency response team that arrived on the scene.
“It’s just one of these times where we just really need to reach out into the communities and try and better promote just these water safety messages.”

He says it is unrealistic to fence off the vast length of Australia’s coastline, and education is key.

Pearce said it’s not just about swimming skills, but also knowledge about the terrain and wave conditions.
“Rock fishing and rock-platform related drownings is up by 50 per cent on this time last year. So we’ve seen now nine people lose their lives, either rock fishing or on rock platforms being washed off rock platforms.”

He said when summer ends people can mistakenly think that it’s safe to socialise on the rocks.


Professor Robert Brander is a beach safety researcher at the University of New South Wales.
He says the messaging and educational outreach to high-risk populations, including newly arrived migrants, needs to be more effective.
“We have done studies of southern Asian communities and they just don’t have a lot of beach safety knowledge, especially new migrants; or migrants who’ve lived in Australia less than 10 years. And that’s because we’re not teaching them.
“I would say that we just have not been doing a good job of educating a lot of communities throughout Australia in general about some of the hazards and risks that are along the coast and we need to get better.” 
He says education campaigns with spokespersons from within the community appear to be the most effective – and efforts in that area should be scaled up and funded.

“About a quarter of the people we surveyed didn’t actually understand what the red and yellow flags mean, which is a big concern because on our beaches in the summer, at least –  that is the main message we have is to swim between the flags.”

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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