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Collaroy Beach drowning and near drowning

UNDER INVESTIGATION: Council staff inspecting the controversial stormwater pipe during an onsite meeting at Collaroy Beach following the latest near drowning. Picture: Dallas Kilponen
UNDER INVESTIGATION: Council staff inspecting the controversial stormwater pipe during an onsite meeting at Collaroy Beach following the latest near drowning. Picture: Dallas Kilponen

COUNCIL is remaining tight-lipped on whether it will relocate a stormwater pipe at Collaroy Beach following the death of one person and near drowning of another in the past five months.

A 44-year-old male surfer was killed on August 10, 2020 when he was dragged under the water at the submerged stormwater pipe, then on January 21 this year a 17-year-old girl was dragged beneath the pipe while surfing and was later rescued.

The incidents resulted in council holding an on-site meeting at the beach on February 1 where they inspected the controversial pipe and debriefed with the lifeguard who performed last month's rescue.

Following the meeting, the Northern Beaches Review asked council if any changes would be made to the pipe or lifeguard procedures at the beach, or if the pipe would be relocated. Council declined to answer, but said it would "consider any findings" once an investigation into the man's death is complete.

There have been 54 rescues at the beach during the past five years, but council and Surf Life Saving NSW said they do not have data on how many of these involved the pipe.

CONTROVERSIAL: The stormwater pipe is clearly visible jutting out into the ocean on satellite images of Collaroy Beach. Picture: Google Earth

CONTROVERSIAL: The stormwater pipe is clearly visible jutting out into the ocean on satellite images of Collaroy Beach. Picture: Google Earth

The stormwater outlet was constructed in the late 1970s to reduce flooding in Collaroy Street and it has long been controversial.

In 2012, following damage sustained from wave action over the years, the then Warringah Council conducted an assessment of the various options for rebuilding the structure.

As a result, the stormwater outlet was partially reconstructed in January 2015, with the damaged end section replaced with a new outlet 10 metres shorter to reduce risk and a modified design to mitigate wave impacts.

Council did consider moving the outlet adjacent to the Collaroy rock pool during the 2012 assessment, but it was not supported by the community as it was likely to have a detrimental impact on the water quality in the pool and required a significant capital investment.

Council CEO Ray Brownlee said the man's death last August was a tragedy.

"We also recognise the incredible dedication of lifeguards and lifesavers, most recently lifeguard Sean Woolnough for his courageous actions in saving a young surfer."

HERO: Northern Beaches Council lifeguard Sean Woolnough following the dramatic rescue. Picture: Mark Sywak

HERO: Northern Beaches Council lifeguard Sean Woolnough following the dramatic rescue. Picture: Mark Sywak

Mark Sywak, who is the father of the 17-year-old who was dragged to the stormwater pipe last month took to social media following the rescue to thank council lifeguard Sean Woolnough.

"Our daughter Jess was dragged beneath a large concrete pipe by a strong ocean current while surfing," he posted. "Sean risked his life jumped in and saved her. Our family will be forever grateful for what he did."

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