Locals and Instagram tourists warned over dangerous 'trend' at Aussie swimming spot

Authorities are trying to figure out how best to safeguard public safety at The Pillars in Victoria, with the local council and lifesaving club discussing their options.

A lifesaving club is pleading with people to stop jumping from rocks at a popular swimming spot after three separate incidents involving serious injuries have occurred in the last two weeks.

The latest incident involved a 22-year-old woman fearing paraplegia after she jumped from The Pillars at Mount Martha in southeast Melbourne on Friday — suffering a spinal injury after a fellow swimmer landed on top of her in the water. She was unable to move and relied on other swimmers to keep her afloat before emergency services arrived.

Lifesavers have been on high alert after a 12-year-old girl broke both her legs and an ankle on New Year's Day at the same location, days before a man also broke his leg and suffered a suspected spinal injury. With the area receiving up to 500 visitors on a busy day, authorities are trying to determine how best to safeguard public safety.

Almost all of the incidents have had one thing in common. "The trend would be that predominantly people are jumping in at shallow, low tide," Chris Quinn, Captain of Mount Martha Lifesaving Club told Yahoo News Australia. "There's been three serious injuries and just as many again which have been minor, and haven't required emergency services."

People seem swimming and jumping off cliffs at The Pillars in Victoria.
The popular spot is known for its cliff jumping. Source: Instagram

Authorities unsure how best to protect public

The local council had previously erected fences to stop access to the rocks from the shoreline, however, this proved "problematic" as swimmers would simply gain access via boat and climb the rocks. It is a "non-patrolled area" with the lifesaving club eager not to mislead people into thinking the area is safe if they establish a presence there.

"It's getting the balance right between not encouraging people, but also making sure we're there to help," Quinn said.

A woman suffering spinal injuries (left) is pulled onto a lifesaving boat on a stretcher after jumping at The Pillars. Right: Another man being helped onto the lifesaver boat suffered spinal injuries.
Three swimmers have suffered serious injuries jumping off The Pillars in Melbourne in recent weeks. Source: 7 News

There have been discussions about putting some kind of "water depth marker" so people have a visual aid to make "informed decisions", however, it will ultimately be a council decision, the lifesaver explained. He also noted the area is a "blackspot for radio communications" — making it difficult for emergency services to coordinate rescues.

Travellers flock to popular 'social media' destination

The Pillars has become even more well-known after heightened social media coverage and it is now no longer only locals jumping from the rocks.

"The challenge now is with the kind of exposure it's got on social media, it's just a lot of people coming down there that have no knowledge," Quinn explained. "People have jumped with locals there for years and have more of an understanding of where those risks are."

"People come down when it suits them, which then may not suit Mother Nature and it's low tide," he said.

Left, Sarah Jacka in a hospital bed with both legs in a cast. Right, she is captured mid jump before landing in the water.
Sarah Jacka, 12, broke both her legs and ankle after jumping from the rocks in New year's Day and hitting the sea floor. Source: 7 News

Lifesavers' advice to prospective thrill seekers

Quinn said swimmers needs to "look before they leap" to minimise the chance of injury.

"The prevention message would be to look before you leap. Look at the depth of the water, look how shallow it is. If you're going to jump make sure you're doing it in an area where people have cleared," he said.

However, the "headline message" is to simply avoid jumping off the rocks at all.

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