Sign of a sad time

Materno Biwot at the beach where his son died earlier in the year. Picture: Marie Nirme d401995
Materno Biwot at the beach where his son died earlier in the year. Picture: Marie Nirme d401995

RESIDENTS touched by the loss of two lives at Claytons beach in Mindarie earlier this year signed a petition calling for improved safety measures there.

The 1247-signature petition, presented at the May 28 meeting, asked the Wanneroo City Council to identify swimming and non-swimming beaches and erect ‘danger’ signs, including at Claytons.

It also asked the City, with Surf Life Saving WA and the State Government, to increase awareness of swimming lessons for immigrants and to supply information packages on beach safety.

Materno Biwot, whose son Jenon (13) drowned on a Sunday afternoon in March when caught in a rip while waist-deep swimming with friends, supported the petition.

‘If we had known this was a dangerous beach, it could be a different story for my son,’ he said.

Mr Biwot said his son’s death was the first time he had heard about rips, because the word did not exist in his language in South Sudan.

‘The change that we want to see here is we want to have a sign that is visible ” people will see that there is danger,’ he said. ‘We want also to step up education, information to the community especially about beaches ” give information to teach the community, especially newcomers or immigrants.

‘We want to minimise the loss of life by giving people the right information.’

Mr Biwot and his wife Grace attended the Wanneroo council meeting last week with Mindarie resident and petition organiser Helen Randall.

They were joined by Collette Roberts, whose father, UK tourist Peter Swan (57), died in January after being caught in a rip while body boarding.

‘I understand that the City has been working with SLSWA since the January drowning to sort out Claytons beach, but after the second drowning and over three years of letters to the City from me, I petition them to act, hopefully speeding things up,’ Mrs Randall told the Times.

In the week following Jenon’s death, the City increased signage at the stairs accessing Claytons from Alexandria View, warning beachgoers about the dangerous and strong currents, that the beach is unpatrolled and with advice on how to get out of a rip.

But, similar signs have not been erected at the entrance to another beach access path on Long Beach Promenade, which Jenon and his friends used to access the beach the day he died.

SLSWA is currently conducting an online survey as part of its coastal safety audit for the City. For more information, call Belinda Fleay on 9207 6666.