20 February 2023

Second life lost at Gibraltar Falls in less than a week

| Kim Treasure
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Warning sign

Emergency services have been called to a second fatal accident at Gibraltar Falls in less than a week. Photo: ACT Government.

A second person has lost their life at Gibraltar Falls in less than a week.

ACT Policing say a 22-year-old man died earlier today (Saturday, 18 February 2023) after falling from the popular tourist spot.

About 5:25 pm, ACT Policing received a report that the 22-year-old man had fallen from Gibraltar Falls and could not be located.

Police from Tuggeranong Station, ACT Ambulance Service paramedics, ACT Fire & Rescue members and the Toll Rescue Helicopter were dispatched to the location.

About 6:05 pm the man was found unconscious in the water and was unable to be revived. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

ACT Policing will prepare a report for the coroner.

This is the second death in this area in seven days.

Just last Sunday (12 February 2023) 19-year-old Thomas Livingstone fell in the same area. He is believed to have slipped while scrambling across rocks in front of the waterfall.

READ MORE Teenager dies in Gibraltar Falls accident

ACT Parks and Conservation rangers and passersby were able to provide assistance and first aid until emergency services arrived but he also died at the scene.

Mr Livingstone was a resident of the Australian National University’s Ursula Hall and was also an accomplished rower, competing in NSW before moving to Canberra.

While the Gibraltar Falls are beautiful, it’s not recommended people swim there. Photo: ACT Government.

That death prompted the ACT’s Conservator of Flora and Fauna Bren Burkevics to warn all cards were “on the table” as the Territory considered how to make Gibraltar Falls safer.

While Gibraltar Falls has a viewing platform, the water hole has become popular with locals and tourists alike.

READ MORE Future of Gibraltar Falls in the balance but closure flagged as ‘last resort’

Parks and Conservation rangers carried out a safety review of the site, which included examining signage, fencing, handrails and areas that have been trampled by people ignoring warnings and heading off the marked trails.

Mr Burkevics warned that if signage and fences weren’t enough to stop people from walking where they shouldn’t, other options were available including closing the area to the public.

Anyone who witnessed today’s incident, who has not already spoken to police, is urged to contact ACT Policing on 131 444.

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It was closed Bob, and it was advertised that it was closed.

I thought it was closed since someone fell to their death the week before?

Michael Pless3:53 pm 19 Feb 23

I really love Gibraltar Falls, and my sympathies go to the loved ones of the latest and utterly tragic death. However, reports of deaths invariably fail to follow-up with any enlightenment on the circumstances leading to the tragedy: this information could well be enlightening. As I said in a previous comment, the Falls and other areas of natural beauty are placed in the hands of governing bodies to administer them for *all* members of the public. I see shutting them off as a brutal, short-sighted, and small-minded knee-jerk response. I moved from a State (Victoria) that appears to have such reactions as a first and only response and it is exceptionally tedious and heartbreaking to see some of the most beautiful parts of the State in which you live being shut-off forever or fenced-in all in the name of “safety”. What is the point of a natural wonder if nobody can get to see and enjoy it? The area is currently closed while a “safety” review is underway. My feeling is that even if it is reopened, the experience of visiting the area will be marred forever by a plethora of ugly fences and access restricted to tiny viewing areas that are hardly worth the effort of visiting.

1) The nature, the very essence, of RANDOMNESS, is that things occur in clusters, i.e. unevenly, and this seems likely to be a good example.
2) Bren Burkevics would be well served if his advice from Parks and Conservation related previous Australian experience with such deaths. For example a case I was involved with was when the father of Shree Baligadoo sued the ACT following her death at Mt Coree. The father claimed the ACT was remiss for not having followed a Coroner’s recommendation, regarding a prior death at Booroomba Rocks, to build roads to cliff tops such as Booroomba, in order to enable faster access by emergency services, and to erect signs and railings around edges of cliffs in Namadgi National Park. But no road, railing or sign had been installed at any cliff, including the remote area where Ms Baligadoo died, by the time of her death. Experienced lawyers retained by the ACT for its defence, were in no doubt whatever that the absence of signs, railings and roads in such remote areas was in practical terms, no liability. And if I recall correctly, the case was withdrawn, anyway the ACT did not lose it.
3) Booroomba Rocks is not a climbing wall in a local gym. And Gibraltar Falls is not ‘Wet and Wild’ or any other adventure park. The ACT government is not responsible for water polished rocks being slippery, nor for the falls being higher than it is safe to fall.
4) Gibraltar Falls attracts people because of its naturalness. It would be a travesty to do what Burkevics has indicated and deprive a large number of people of the pleasure of experiencing this spot because two people died there and other people continue to assess risk differently to the assessment made by a government department, and to disregard some of the warnings the department provided.
5) Many local natural features have caused deaths, eg the cluster of unrelated drownings in the Murrumbidgee in the 1980s. Although each death is highly unfortunate, there is no reasonably way to completely prevent them all.

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