The mother of a missing 14-year-old boy collapsed on the sand on Wednesday morning as the search continued for her son at Maroubra Beach in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
Emergency crews were called to the beach just after 8:30pm on Tuesday after reports two teenagers were in trouble in the water.
The mother wept on the shore on Wednesday as the search entered its second day and authorities scoured the southern end of the beach. She was taken from the beach in an ambulance.
Several drownings have marred the festive season in New South Wales, with six men and one young girl all dying in surf, rivers or backyard pools.
Police inspector Chris Whalley said the missing boy had been swimming with his cousin, who was pulled from the surf by a 26-year-old passer-by.
“Clearly the efforts of the passer-by are outstanding,” Mr Whalley said.
“To take the initiative and to enter the surf to try and rescue someone is [a] fantastic thing to do and something that’s extremely admirable.”
Matthew Evans, from Surf Life Saving Sydney, said the search for the boy was centring around the southern end of the beach.
“The conditions today at South Maroubra, there is 3-4 foot swell running, a couple of rips down the southern end of the beach at the moment, so it is making it a bit difficult condition-wise,” he said.
“It’s probably not advisable to enter the water at that southern end of the beach today given the likelihood it is not good swimming conditions at the moment.”
Holiday drowning toll stands at seven
A man has died while swimming on the Central Coast making him the sixth man, and seventh person, to drown in New South Wales over the Christmas period.
The man was found unresponsive in the swimming baths on Ocean Parade at The Entrance, just after 3pm.
He died at the scene and was yet to be formally identified.
Earlier on Wednesday, a 25-year-old man’s body was found earlier in the Nepean River, within the Bents Basin Conservation Area south of Sydney.
He had been swimming with friends on Boxing Day but disappeared about 3.30pm, not long after entering the water.
There did not appear to be any suspicious circumstances surrounding the man’s death, police said.
The tragedy was the latest in a string of water-related deaths in NSW over the festive period.
Earlier on Boxing Day, a 60-year-old Grafton man drowned after trying to help his four nieces at Wooli Beach north of Coffs Harbour.
The girls, aged between 10 and 16, were caught in a rip.
Later that day, police divers found the body of a 27-year-old man who disappeared while swimming in the Kangaroo River in the Shoalhaven region.
Also in Shoalhaven, a 56-year-old Kensington man was found unconscious in the surf at Merry Beach at Kiola about 6.30pm. He could not be revived.
On Christmas Day, a 27-year-old man drowned at Wattamolla Lagoon in Royal National Park near Sutherland.
A toddler also died in hospital on Boxing Day, nearly a week after she and her twin brother were found unconscious in a pool in Sydney’s north-west.
The 23-month-old boy and girl were pulled from the backyard pool of a Kellyville Ridge home on December 20.
Off-duty police officers performed CPR
In the case of the Coffs Harbour death, Liam Howitt from Surf Life Saving NSW said a rip at Wooli Beach had carried the group of girls about 60 metres north of the flags.
Geoffrey Blackadder, 60, who was on the beach with his nephew, went in to help them.
“All four people that were in the water were rescued by the lifeguards, however when they turned around, the realised the man had got into difficulty,” said Mr Howitt.
He was pulled to shore but could not revived.
“Just looking at him laying there lifeless, it just broke me, because there was nothing they could do to bring him back,” his great niece Jasmine said.
Chief inspector Shari Allison from Coffs Harbour Police said two off-duty officers stepped in to help but were unable to save Mr Blackadder.
We had two off-duty police officers who were there with their families, and they actually performed CPR on the gentleman for over an hour until Westpac live saver rescue helicopter and a medical doctor were able to attend.”
Mr Howitt said it was crucial that people swam at patrolled beaches.
“I think that’s what yesterday’s incident does highlight the importance of swimming in a patrolled location,” he said.
“Had this occurred at an unpatrolled beach we could have been talking about a mass casualty event.”
90 per cent of drowning deaths are males
Earlier this year, a report revealed a 24 per cent increase in drowning deaths on the coast.
It found men accounted for almost 90 per cent of drowning deaths, and those aged between 25 and 29 were at particular risk.
“It’s really tough because there are five men who have drowned in the last couple of days alone and it’s five deaths that could have been prevented,” Surf Life Saving NSW spokesman Drew Lambert said.
“They egg each other on, they don’t know their limitations, they may go swimming in dangerous surf,” he said.
Mr Lambert suggested women should try to help their male friends stay safe in the water.
You are the sensible sex, you should be advising them appropriately … girls look after your male friends, they don’t know their limitations.”
For all swimmers Mr Lambert emphasised four main points:
- Swim between the flags on a patrolled beach: “If we can see you, we can save you”.
- Don’t go in drunk
- Know your limitations
- Swim with a friend