By DAWN COHEN
MATTHEW COLIN HICKS had only been 18 for 10 days when he died.
Matthew, known as Hicksy to his mates, and Matt to his family, was caught in a rip just 20 metres offshore at Shelly Beach, Ballina, on Tuesday.
"He worked at Linclean in Lismore, and he had a split shift. He finished work about 12 o'clock and had to be back at four," said his devastated mother Margaret, speaking from the family's Goonellabah home yesterday.
"I came home at 3.30 to take him back to work, and the police were already here. When I saw my husband's face, I knew something was very wrong."
Matthew was in the surf with his three closest friends, Stratton Carlberg, Dane Smith and Shane Wade, when a rip separated him from them.
He struggled in the water, but was dragged under. Ballina Jetboat Surf Rescue crew brought him back to shore, but attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
A steady stream of friends and family have been supporting the grief-stricken family of the former Trinity Catholic College student.
Matthew's older brother, Anthony, 22, sister Louise, 15, and brother Jason, 13, are in a state of shock, as are Matt's parents.
The circle of support clearly extends to Matt's mates, who wander in and out of the house in an atmosphere thick with love, tears and devastation.
"I would like to shout a tribute to my son from the rooftops," said his father, Dennis. "I want everyone to know about him."