News

Coroner: Byron Bay needs better surf warning systems

LOOKING BACK: Brunswick Valley rescue and police were among those who searched for Irish surfer Stuart Butler (pictured below), who went missing at Tallow Beach, Byron Bay, in July last year.
LOOKING BACK: Brunswick Valley rescue and police were among those who searched for Irish surfer Stuart Butler (pictured below), who went missing at Tallow Beach, Byron Bay, in July last year. Mireille Merlet-Shaw Facebook

BYRON Bay needs better surf warning systems to prevent tourists from drowning, the state coroner has concluded after a coronial inquiry into the disappearance of Irish tourist Stuart Butler in heavy seas at Tallow Beach last year.

The 20-year-old's body was never found after he was swept away in treacherous surf on July 19, 2014 with coroner Michael Barnes yesterday finding that Mr Butler had accidentally drowned while attempting to surf in the "unsuitably rough" conditions.

The inquest heard evidence that Mr Butler and his two surfing companions had not heard weather warnings broadcast on TV and radio predicting 25-40 knot winds and four-metre swells that day and had not read signs at Tallow Beach because one of the trio had surfed there days earlier without drama.

"The stark reality is they should not have entered the surf from Tallows Beach on the day in question and that when they did they unwittingly put their lives at risk," Mr Barnes said.

"Young men are notorious risk takers. However, I am satisfied that had Mr Butler and his colleagues realised how dangerous the seas were they would not have exposed themselves to the risks that they did when

they went into the water on the day."

Mr Barnes recommended local accommodation providers give weather alerts and warnings to travellers and that Byron Shire Council consider installing signs at Tallow Beach that are updated daily with current information about surf conditions.

Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson said Mr Butler's drowning was a "tragic wake-up call" for all stakeholders.

"The council will take on board the coroner's recommendations," he said.

"But I also think people need to take some personal responsibility."

Cr Richardson said updating signage at Tallow Beach on a daily basis could be "onerous and problematic" but early warnings at backpackers and hostels would be effective.

"We do need to educate these young travellers, and it needs to be a whole-of-community response," he said.

The accommodation recommendations were also welcomed by Surf Life Saving NSW spokeswoman Donna Wishart who said SLSNSW was already working on creating a database of backpackers and hostels that are issued with early warning emails of dangerous weather conditions.

The coroner stopped short of recommending more than summer holiday lifesaving patrols at Tallow Beach, noting Byron Shire Council had recently received a safety/risk audit of all local beaches.

Ms Wishart said the SLSNSW report, Project Blueprint, had gone before the council who were working through its recommendations, including funding year-round patrols at Main Beach.

Topics:  byron bay, missing surfer, stuart butler




Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Review lands Westpac helibase in Lismore for good

Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter pilot Marty Shepherd at the current Lismore base.

NO change of plans for future Westpac helibase

Lismore pensioner lost everything to African scammers

Robert Duffy was conned out of more than $6000 during an elaborate improvised scam by Africans on Facebook who gained his trust, lured him with promises of wealth and friendship, and then proceeded to extort repeat cash transactions from him.

“I should have had more sense.”

Alleged drug-dealing neighbours face court after raids

Eli Meyer-Milton, 33, of Bentley, and Nicholas George, 33, of Larnook, were both arrested and charged after police raids on Wednesday morning.

Ice, heroin, ecstasy, cannabis, gun and stolen car allegedly found.

Latest deals and offers

Scam victim shares his story

Lismore scam victim Robert Duffy has bravely spoken out about his experience at the...

Police sieze drugs and money in raids

Generic polic sign Photo Contributed

Police have seized drugs, money and ammunition in raids near Bentley and Larnook as...

Get ready for the Our Kids Winter Ball

Our Kids fundraising coordinator Rebekka Battista has her dress picked out for the...

Coastal development keeps young people on Northern Rivers

Wes Bale is a 27-year-old born and bred Lennox Head local who is an example of the demographic shift in the region.

Young Northern Rivers residents are looking closer to home

We’ve found 8 rentals available on the Northern Rivers

2/22 Sunnybank Drive, Ballina

It's obvious there is a rental shortage on the Northern Rivers