Surf tragedy - Goonellabah man drowns at Ballina?s Shelly Beach
By DAWN COHEN
AN 18-year-old Goonellabah man drowned at the southern end of Shelly Beach in Ballina yesterday. The man, whose name has not been released, went swimming with three friends about 1.30pm. Inspector Tony Crandall, from Lismore police, said strong rips separated the man from from his friends. He was seen struggling in the water but was dragged under by the strong current about 20 metres from shore. The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter and the Ballina Jetboat Surf Rescue were notified at 1.45pm that two people had been washed out by a rip and one was still in the water. "It was like a washing machine, the water was so turbulent," helicopter pilot Adrian Smith said. "We saw the person after two or three minutes, then we lost sight of him for the next five minutes, then we saw him again." Jetboat captain Garry Meredith and volunteer Shane O'Connor launched their boat with the assistance of the victim's friends. "They were spot-on in giving us the right information," Mr Meredith said. The helicopter directed the boat towards the last sightings of the victim and Mr O'Connor got on a rescue board. "The water was fairly calm where I was," he said. Mr Meredith said the white water and sand made it hard to see, but the victim was washed right to Mr O'Connor. "Shane grabbed him and pulled him to the boat. We took him back to shore," he said. "He was not breathing. The ambulance paramedics tried to save him, but we knew it was too late."