New buoys, signage in place in response to multiple accidents at Penrith Weir

Temporary signage at the boat ramp warns of the dangers of the Weir. Photo: Melinda Jane.
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New temporary warning signage and water marker buoys have been hastily installed after serious concerns were raised about safety on the Nepean River at Penrith Weir.

The response comes after a 33-year-old woman died in a boating accident on Australia Day and just days later another five people had to be winched to safety, when their boat also hit the weir and capsized.

The accidents prompted an at times farcical blame game this week as various bodies argued over who was responsible for the missing buoys and signage, which are intended to warn people about the dangerous weir.

A spokesperson for WaterNSW, the authority ultimately responsible for the weir, said it discovered the buoys were damaged on January 25 and immediate steps were taken to arrange their replacement.

Safety marker buoys on the Nepean River on Wednesday. Photo: Melinda Jane.

“WaterNSW is co-operating with relevant authorities and NSW Police in relation to recent serious boating incidents on the Nepean River weir at Penrith,” the spokesperson said.

“At the request of police, water releases from Warragamba Dam have been reduced to assist in the recovery of the watercraft involved in the weekend incident.”

It is understood that monthly checks confirmed the buoys were in place in November and December, but not on January 25 – a day before the fatal Australia Day incident.

With the buoys not being replaced in time to possibly prevent the incidents, Minister for Lands and Water, Kevin Anderson said interim temporary safety marker buoys are now in place ahead of it being rectified permanently.

“The NSW Government is committed to safe boating on the Nepean River and will be reinstalling the permanent water marker buoys as a matter of priority,” Mr Anderson said.

Emergency services on site at Nepean River on Sunday. Photo: Megan Dunn.

“I am advised WaterNSW will work with Maritime Services and Penrith Council as we continue to improve safety measures in this area.”

With existing signage on bridge pylons and at the Nepean River boat ramp, additional electronic signs have also been added near the weir and boat ramp as interim measures.

Member for Penrith, Stuart Ayres said while on the river, boat users need to make safety their number one priority.

“Any death is terrible but for one to happen on Australia Day while enjoying our river it is particularly tragic, and while we love the recreation opportunities that the Nepean River provides, it’s critical that boat users reduce speed particularly in unfamiliar sections of the river,” Mr Ayres said.

“With regular spills taking place at Warragamba Dam the height of the river and speed of its currents can change significantly. Water heights can lead to some marker buoys being submerged.”

The boat involved in Sunday’s incident. Photo: Megan Dunn.

NSW Ambulance Acting Inspector, Peter Van Praag told the Weekender that life jackets most certainly saved the lives of the two children involved in the incident on January 30.

“When NSW Ambulance arrived five people were in the water being pulled under by the force of the water pouring over the weir, with one adult patient being stuck between the boat and weir,” Acting Inspector Van Praag said.

“We actually lost sight of the children at one point as they were getting pulled under the raging water.

“It was incredibly difficult for the people on scene, both the bystanders and emergency services to be confronted by this situation where they are helpless and unable to assist in the water.”

Penrith City Council said it will assist and support, as required, the lead agencies responsible for the management, operation and safety of the Nepean River.

“The safety of all river users is paramount, and Council is ready to assist under the instruction of the responsible agencies of Maritime Services (part of Transport for NSW) and WaterNSW,” a council spokesperson said.

“Council advises all users of the Nepean River to exercise caution as water levels remain high with fast flows due to ongoing rain and the drawdown operations to reduce the water level held in Warragamba Dam.”

Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) and the SES have also issued warnings about water safety.

“What we need the public to do is to always take a good, hard look at the environment they’re in,” FRNSW’ Clayton Allison said.

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