A Victorian father who drowned trying to help another dad save his kids from rough surf is being hailed as a hero.
Shaun Oliver, 32, raced into the treacherous water at Wollongong beach on Sunday afternoon after noticing the four children struggling.
They made it back to shore safely but the father of three didn’t survive.
The beach was closed and patrols don’t start until next month, prompting authorities to issue a stern warning about swimming in areas without red and yellow flags.
Islam Hammad, the children’s mother, told News Corp she doesn’t know what to say to Mr Oliver’s family.
“He’s a father and a husband too. He lost his life,” Ms Hammad said.
“I can’t find the words to thank him, because thank you is just a little word.”
— 7 News Sydney (@7NewsSydney) September 11, 2017
Her children had entered the dangerous surf despite the beach being closed, because her family aren’t aware of the safety protocol, she said.
“The police said no flags, no swim but we didn’t know that rule. There was nobody here telling us,” she said.
Detective Inspector Brad Ainsworth said the tragedy had cut the community “pretty deep”.
“Would I say they knew about the surf? I would say no. It was treacherous, heavy surf. You have got ticks against everything why you shouldn’t be on the water or near the water,” he told reporters in Wollongong.
The boys’ father managed to get his two younger kids to shore but two elder ones, aged 10 and 12, were dragged further out in a rip.
An off-duty paramedic, who was at the beach with his wife, pulled the 10-year-old boy to dry land while Mr Oliver reached the other boy.
But Mr Oliver, who was visiting NSW on business, got into trouble himself.
A surfer took the 12-year-old boy back to shore, but Mr Oliver was swept further out to sea.
Mr Oliver faced a terrible decision when he heard kids yelling out from the ocean, his brother Nathanael wrote on a GoFundMe page set up to support the family.
“He heard the cries for help and, without a thought for his own safety, launched himself into the water,” it reads.
Devastating news that our former junior & senior player Shaun Oliver drowned trying to save two young children in Wollongong @SouthernFNL
— Keysboroughfnc (@keysboroughfnc) September 11, 2017
Three police officers swam out and pulled Mr Oliver from the sea.
He was given CPR on the beach and rushed to hospital but later died.
His sister, Claire Murray said he was an amazing person.
“There’s no words to describe Shaun, he was just an amazing boy and he would help anybody who was in trouble,” she told Network Ten.
A hazardous surf warming was in place on Monday for beaches in the Illawarra region and as far north to Byron Bay near the Queensland border.