The search for an elderly man swept into floodwaters after attempting to cross a bridge on the NSW far north coast is due to enter its third day.
The 72-year-old climbed from his car and clung to a tree after his 4WD was swept off a concrete causeway into Leycester Creek at Larnoon, near Lismore, on Wednesday afternoon.
Police, State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers and rescue crews searched for the man until dusk on Thursday after doing the same on Wednesday, and will re-launch their efforts on Friday morning.
Witness Bo Kaan said he was helpless as his friend, an experienced motorist who once drove from England to Singapore, was washed away by floodwaters.
“He knew what he was doing; he just misjudged the bridge because it is poorly marked,” Mr Kaan, a local resident, told AAP.
“It is the most frustrating and debilitating thing to watch someone just go like that.”
Rescue crews set out in boats about 3-4km downstream to continue looking for the man on Thursday.
The desperate search came as a month’s worth of rain bucketed down on Sydney and the state’s central and north coasts overnight Wednesday, with some areas receiving more than 100mm.
Mr Kaan described the bridge as a “death trap waiting to happen” because there are no measures in place for emergencies.
“”It is just up to people to decide for themselves whether they can get through,” he said.
“It is always touch and go at that bridge. Whenever it goes under there are people who are risking their lives.”
Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell said it was too early to say whether the council would take action on improving safety precautions in the area.
“Nothing could have been done. It was an error of judgment of this man, whatever his fate might be, that he entered that water,” she told AAP.
“It is always far too dangerous to go putting not only your life and your passenger’s life at risk, but putting at risk the people that might be called out to rescue you.”
Mr Kaan said the man’s children and former partner had arrived from Brisbane on Thursday morning after being notified by police.
He described the missing man as “a fantastic human being” who bought his property in the local area more than three decades ago for his retirement.
“He is so loved by everyone in the community. He was so helpful to everybody and did most things for nothing,” he said.
“You’d have to force money onto him if he did any job … stick it in his pocket and kick him out the door, otherwise he wouldn’t take it.”
Local police, SES volunteers and helicopter crews are due to set out on their search again on Friday morning.