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Lack of rope on Angel ring complicated bid to rescue child

UPDATE 12.45pm:  IF the local Angel Ring had a rope attached it would have been even more useful for fisherman Kirk Trease who played a crucial role in the rescue attempt of a young boy who drowned at the South Wall in Ballina on the weekend.

The Angel Ring was used by Mr Trease to help get the boy's father out of the surf but when they found the boy, not having a rope for the ring slowed down the rescue he said.

"If it had the rope on it, it would have made our life that much easier," he said.

Another fisherman Mitch Lang had jumped into the surf to get to the young boy when Mr Trease got to them along the break wall, and tossed out the Angel Ring.

"What he [Mr Lang] didn't need was a floatie, what he needed was a way for us to drag him back in, without me entering the water," Mr Trease said.
 

One minute there will be nothing there and the next minute there will be four feet of water

- KIRK TREASE

"He used the Angel Ring for a brief moment but it was too much of a burden when we were trying to secure someone back to the wall," he said.

After the boy was pulled from the water the fisherman undertook resuscitation for up to half an hour before the first of the emergency services crew got to the scene.

It was a very "tragic" afternoon Mr Trease said.

Even at this early stage in the rescue, which culminated in the boy being airlifted to the Gold Coast University Hospital, "there were no signs of life," Mr Trease said.

Mr Trease didn't see the boy enter the water but had a fair idea what went wrong, after he saw the father and two boys beachcombing before the incident

"I can tell you how they would have got into trouble, the little fellah had a red jumper on, they would have been just too close when the wave came in," he said.

At that part of the beach, at the crux where it meets the break wall, the surf could be very unpredictable he said.

"One minute there will be nothing there and the next minute there will be four feet of water," he said.

"It was a tragic mistake."

Other people including the Sean Pauling and his brother, also played a crucial role in the rescue attempt of the boy as well, he said.

Mr Pauling was in contact with emergency services right from the beginning and coordinated everything, Mr Trease said.

INITIAL REPORT: A SIX-year-old boy drowned at Ballina's South Wall on Saturday afternoon despite the best efforts of a well-orchestrated rescue mission.

An Angel Ring was used in the rescue, but it did not have a rope attached, reducing its effectiveness, according to Garry Meredith, duty officer with Ballina surf life saving.

HOW THE TRAGEDY UNFOLDED

The Ballina Jet Boat Rescue was the first emergency crew to the scene and found the boy unconscious and unresponsive.

The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter and the Ballina Jet Boat at Ballina's South Wall where a child drowned after being swept into the ocean by a rogue wave on Saturday. Shared to The Northern Star's Facebook page by Saawan Raghoobar.
The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter and the Ballina Jet Boat at Ballina's South Wall where a child drowned after being swept into the ocean by a rogue wave on Saturday. Shared to The Northern Star's Facebook page by Saawan Raghoobar. Saawan Raghoobar

The boy had been pulled from the water by several local fishermen including Kirk Trease, who came to the rescue of the father and helped get the young boy out of the water.

Emergency services went into action just after 1pm.

Swell breaking over Southwall. Photo: Nolan Verheij-Full / Northern Star
Swell breaking over Southwall. Photo: Nolan Verheij-Full / Northern Star Nolan Verheij-Full

The boy and his brother were with their father on South Ballina Beach wading in the water in the shoulder of the break wall when a rogue wave, in already rough conditions, dragged the boy into trouble, Mr Meredith said.

The fishermen rescuers got the boy to the top of the break wall and then began CPR until ambulance officers arrived on the scene.

The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter and the Ballina Jet Boat at Ballina's South Wall where a child drowned after being swept into the ocean by a rogue wave on Saturday. Shared to The Northern Star's Facebook page by Saawan Raghoobar.
The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter and the Ballina Jet Boat at Ballina's South Wall where a child drowned after being swept into the ocean by a rogue wave on Saturday. Shared to The Northern Star's Facebook page by Saawan Raghoobar. Saawan Raghoobar

In a short time they were backed up by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

The boy was airlifted to Gold Coast University Hospital in a critical condition; where he later died.

When the Ballina Jet Boat crew got to the scene two crewman, Mr Meredith and Alan Noble, had to be dropped into the water because it was too rough to dock the boat, captain Mark Puglisi said.

Rough seas and dirty water at south wall in Ballina. Photo: Nolan Verheij-Full / Northern Star
Rough seas and dirty water at south wall in Ballina. Photo: Nolan Verheij-Full / Northern Star Nolan Verheij-Full

It is understood the family was from Brisbane.

Mr Meredith said as far as he knew the child had no intention of swimming and was just wading in the shallows, Mr Meredith said.

"It was a tragic sad accident," he said.

BEACH TRAGEDY: The entrance sign to South Ballina Beach where a six-year-old boy perished in a drowning tragedy.
BEACH TRAGEDY: The entrance sign to South Ballina Beach where a six-year-old boy perished in a drowning tragedy. Nolan Verheij-Full

"Especially when you are dealing with someone this age," he said.

The drowning brought back memories of Joseph and Carole Sherry who died at the same beach in an attempt to save their boys in 2010.

How The Northern Star reported the Sherry family drownings in 2010.
How The Northern Star reported the Sherry family drownings in 2010.

Mr Meredith was part of that rescue attempt as well.

The Coroner's report into the Sherry drowning recommended new signs be put up with big warnings, alerting people to the dangers of swimming at the beach.

The Coroner’s report after the Sherry family drownings.
The Coroner’s report after the Sherry family drownings.

The area of South Ballina beach lies within the NSW National Parks and warning signs are now in place.

Mr Meredith said he would report to council the fact that the Angel Ring did not have a rope attached.

He couldn't say how critical to the rescue the Angel Ring had been to the operation.

Topics:  drowning editors picks rough seas south ballina beach



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