Inquests into the deaths of Bobdeb Nkondogoro and John Kabiru Ndirangu (2015) H&FLR 2015-32
Coroners Court of Victoria
3 March 2015
Coram: Coroner White
No appearances recorded
Catchwords: Victoria – death – drowning – recent migrants – not able to swim – danger – failure to warn
Facts: Bobdeb Nkondogoro was aged 12 years. He had recently arrived in Australia from Tanzania. He went swimming in a creek in their neighbourhood despite being unable to swim. It was not possible to be certain whether he was accompanied while swimming but it appeared to be the case that he had accidentally drowned after becoming trapped underwater.
John Ndirangu was aged 23 years and had recently migrated to Australia from Kenya. With some family members he went wading at Frankston Beach in the late afternoon of 7 February 2009*. A passing wave caused him to be unable to become unable to touch the bottom. Not being able to swim, he lost his footing and drowned. At the time there were no lifeguards on duty, and the ‘no swimming’ flags had been removed; such that swimmers were expected to look out for themselves and each other.
The coroner noted that new migrants to Australia were provided with a booklet which included a significant amount of information, including as to the dangers of swimming in open waters for non-swimmers. He also noted that a number of community programs existed to aid new migrants to learn to swim, but that there were some difficulties with communication and also sustaining the involvement of participants.
Held: No criticism was made of the emergency services response in either matter. It was recommended that the Victorian Department of Sports and Recreation, in partnership with the Commonwealth Department of Immigration, examine how members of newly arrived migrant groups might best be taught to swim and to provide help with achieving that objective.
* From personal recollection I can confirm that 7 February 2009 was an extremely hot day in Melbourne, and that by late afternoon the attention of police and emergency services across the state were very heavily focussed on the outbreak of the disastrous “Black Saturday” bushfires.