After years of inaction Blue Mountains Council will install “guardian angel rings” at Wentworth Falls Lake within a fortnight.
It follows the tragic death of 16-year-old HSC student Michael ‘Mikey’ Ryall of Lawson, who drowned while fishing at the popular spot in April, 2014.
His family requested council allow the Australian National Sportsfishing Association (ANSA) to install the two life-saving devices at two different locations by the edge of the lake, as well as a memorial seat. Council agreed to the move a year ago but never told the Association they had given it the green light.
ANSA’s Stan Konstantaras, who looks after the angel ring program nationally, told the Gazette they did a thorough investigation at the lake after the drowning and found several places where the angel rings would be appropriate – near the dam and the other on the opposite side of the spillway. While the rings were normally placed in coastal locations, frequented by rock fishermen, there had been “precedents set in a dam in Orange – popular with children and fishermen – and also at Wentworth Falls country club’s private dam just two kilometres away”.
Council declined the offer by ANSA and the NSW Council of Freshwater Anglers in June 2014.
“It has not been for want of trying [to get the rings installed at the lake]. It’s ten minutes work,” Mr Konstantaras said.
“There’s been zero correspondence [from Blue Mountains council] ... and no news on the February 2016 decision.
“Once we send out three or four emails and still get ‘no’, we move on to the next project. We’re a volunteer organisation and we don’t have time to chase things down.”
Following inquiries from the Gazette last week a council spokeswoman said the rings and seat were part of “larger civil works project around the dam spillway” and Mikey’s family had been notified of the delays. The rings would be anchored to the new works at an unconfirmed date, she said.
But when the Gazette revealed ANSA NSW, who would be installing the rings free of charge and had no word from council, council said they would install the rings and the seat within a fortnight and had passed on this news to the family and ANSA.
“The work has been planned in such a way that will allow for the easy and temporary removal of the seat when the civil works are done on the spillway,” she added.
“Stan is kindly delivering the angel rings and associated apparatus by the end of this week.”
“It’s a good outcome, a brilliant outcome,” Mr Konstantaras said, who showed the Gazette the rings at their proposed new home on the weekend.
The rings have a long history of saving lives. In 1993 the life of a rockfishing angler was saved at Moes Rock, south of Jervis Bay by a life ring installed by a bereaved father who had lost his son who was rockfishing at Moes Rock at an earlier date.
ANSA has installed and maintains 131 rings in NSW at publicly accessible waterways, and reports there have been 76 confirmed rescues using the rings.
“And those rescues are just the ones we know about, confirmed by police and other emergency services,” ASNA’s executive officer John Burgess added.
Council will now manage the installation and maintenance of the rings.