Australian Roads, Surf ‘Major Killers’ of Tourists

SYDNEY ~ Australia may have a reputation for venomous spiders and deadly snakes, but the biggest causes of accidental tourist deaths are car crashes and dangerous surf, statistics published this week show.

The figures, compiled by the National Coroners Information System for Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, reveal that most tourists died from natural causes.

But when it came to accidental deaths, most fatalities resulted from car crashes. Swimming was the most dangerous recreational activity, followed by scuba diving or snorkeling.

Of the 474 foreigners who died Down Under in 2003, 2004 and 2005, some 276 succumbed to natural causes, while 65 perished in car accidents and 28 drowned.

Seven died as a result of surgery, six fell to their deaths, three died from heat stroke, three were killed by an explosive blast, two died in fire, two choked to death and two were fatally poisoned.

The statistics show that one person died after being bitten by an unspecified animal, another from acute alcohol poisoning and a third from a lack of food and water. One other person was stabbed to death and one electrocuted.

Surf Life Saving Australia spokesman Sean O’Connell said the figures underlined the need for more education about the dangers of ocean swimming.

“There is much more of an emphasis on Australia’s beautiful beaches without talking about how to enjoy those beaches safely,” O’Connell told the paper.

“You could conceivably hop off a plane, go to your backpackers’ hostel, hop on the bus and you could be swimming at Bondi within four hours and there is a terrible rip you wouldn’t even know about.

“In some cases the rip appears to be the calmest part of the water.”

Officials also warned tourists against getting too close to the nation’s famous wildlife.

“People don’t realize a koala will give you a nasty bite or carve you up with its claws,” the Australian Reptile Park’s Craig Adams told the tabloid.

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