Shark attack victim’s brother extols installation of BEN at Mandurah beaches

Shark attack victim’s brother extols installation of BEN at Mandurah beaches
Shark attack victim’s brother extols installation of BEN at Mandurah beaches

RICK Gerring’s voice is touched with sadness when he talks about his younger brother.

However, he becomes passionate when the topic changes to the beach codes system that would improve emergency response times.

Rick admits that he does not know if Ben would have survived the shark attack that took his life if the ambulance had arrived at the right beach.

But he does know that the system could save lives in the future, as he is a safety representative on the mines.

“Hazards, control and safety mitigating is what I do,” he said.

“Minutes can save lives. Whether it would have helped Ben… I don’t know. I do know that I don’t want to see another family go through what we have.

“I told mum, I’m keeping her in the loop without upsetting her too much.”

The beach codes system would fittingly be named after Ben; Beach Emergency Numbers (BEN).

With Mandurah council voting unanimously for the $50,000 BEN system, it will see signs installed at Mandurah’s beaches with a number, name and GPS co-ordinates.

When ambulances or rescue helicopters are called they will know exactly what beach to go to.

Not only surfers will benefit from the system; Rick points to runners who have heart attacks, epileptics who have fits, and scuba divers and snorkelers who could all potentially be saved.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a tourist who has to call, the beach will be numbered,” he said.

“There will also be relevant information about the beach.

“For example a four-wheel drive is needed to get to Tim’s Thicket.

“When the fire went through Yarloop, boats were needed to rescue people from the beach; with this system they would be able to find them.”

Rick’s goal is for all WA councils to implement the system.

He credits Mandurah Boardriders President Brian Williams for introducing the idea immediately after Ben’s death.

“I needed a bit of time before I could talk to anyone about this,” he said.

“The City of Mandurah has been fantastic, the State Government have been a bit harder to get involved.

“This is definitely my little way of dealing with it.

“For years incidents like this have been happening and there has been no change to improve what is in place. Our systems have been reactive, I’m trying to change it so it is proactive.”

Despite being an active surfer himself, Rick admits he is scared to get back in the water.

He thinks this system will go someway to relieve that fear.

“I’m determined to get back in the water though, so I want to feel safe,” he said.

“All of us growing up in Mandurah, we thought it was the safest because of the reef structure.

“We’ve lost our innocence.

“Margaret River, Albany, Rottnest, Busselton, Coral Bay; these attacks happen all along our coastline.”