Editorial: Need for speed has tragic consequences

THE response on social media to the coroner’s findings into the death of Bendigo man Ian Baker in a water-ski racing-related crash on the Hawkesbury River in 2014 was entirely predictable.

Some dismissed NSW deputy state coroner Teresa O'Sullivan’s findings that authorities should consider capping the speeds of boats in water-skiing competitions as the work of the “fun police”.

Others decried the recommendation, handed down in the Glebe Coroner’s Court on Monday, as an unwanted infringement on the rights of individuals who know the sport’s inherent risks.

What was lost in the furore, however, was that the inquest heard from a number of people involved in the world of competitive water-skiing calling for speed limits, too.

Mr Baker was an observer on The Ringmaster, which was towing two water skiers, when it lost control and flipped at 187km/h during a qualifying session for the Bridge to Bridge Ski Race.

Paramedics attempted to revive the father-of-four, but he was pronounced dead at the scene, aged just 44.

Tragically, Mr Baker’s death came at an event that was being held in honour of champion water skier Sarah Teelow, 20, who had died the year before.

It is human nature to push boundaries.

We all watch in wonder as athletes strive to go faster, higher and be stronger than anyone else who has come before them.

Although it seems like these brave men and women can defy the laws of physics, occasionally tragedy strikes and they are proven to be human after all.

Sometimes, we just need to be protected from ourselves.

If Formula One motor racing can enforce speed restrictions on its cars and still retain its global popularity, then surely water skiing can too?

By focusing less on pure speed, the skill of the drivers, observers and skiers will be able to shine through without quite the same risks.

This region is all too familiar with water sports-related tragedies. Since 1987, six people have died at the Southern 80 event held annually at Echuca-Moama – including one in February this year.

Of course, we cannot protect everyone from everything, but we also cannot sit back and allow the carnage to continue unchecked.

- Ross Tyson, deputy editor


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