Emergency services are continuing to search for a man missing at sea after two accompanying men drowned and three teenagers got in trouble off the mid-north NSW coast.
The men, aged 35 and 45 were unable to be revived after being pulled from the surf at an unpatrolled stretch of Moonee Beach near Coffs Harbour after 6pm on Monday.
Two girls, aged 15 and 17, and a 15-year-old boy were safely pulled from the waters, without serious injury and transported to Coffs Harbour Hospital for observation.
However a 28-year-old man has not yet been found.
The swimmers are understood to be members of an extended family from Auburn in Sydney’s west, and were swimming in the Mooney Creek inlet when they were reportedly dragged out by the tide.
They were 300 metres from the shore of the unpatrolled beach when they were found by off-duty Coffs Harbour lifeguards.
Emergency services called off their search after sunset on Monday amid deteriorating conditions, with crews restarting their search at 7am on Tuesday.
Surf Life Saving NSW North Coast duty officer Les Pepper described the 4.6 kilometre stretch of Moonee Beach where the group got into trouble as “treacherous” and “not safe at all”.
“Some of the beaches are really nice, they look really nice, but are a bit treacherous,” he told ABC News Channel on Tuesday.
At Moonee, it is a river mouth, the creek comes out from there and the rip forms from there and takes you straight out, and people just don’t understand what rips are.”
He urged people to only swim at patrolled beaches, with many now patrolled seven days a week over Christmas.
Coffs Harbour lifeguard team leader Greg Hackfath said recent heavy rain and a strong outgoing tide is making search efforts difficult.
“I can only assume they’ve gone swimming in the creek, perhaps the three teenagers went in first and got into trouble and then the three adults have gone in after them,” Mr Hackfath told the TODAY show.
“Unfortunately it’s ended in a horrific result.”
Surf Lifesaving New South Wales CEO Steven Pearce commended the efforts of the “brave lifeguards that responded and tried valiantly to save everyone”.
“This terrible tragedy highlights the importance of swimming at patrolled locations and understanding how to identify rips and the dangers they present.
“An event like this unfolding so close to the festive season only magnifies the grief and devastation,” Mr Pearce said.