Woman tourist feared drowned at Bay

By SAMANTHA TURNBULL

sturnbull@northernstar.com.au

RESCUERS believe a woman missing off Belongil Beach is dead.

The search for the Asian tourist, thought to be in her 20s, will resume this morning.

Byron Bay police called off yesterday's rescue effort shortly after 7pm when it became too dark to continue.

The woman was reported missing by a man who had been swimming with her about 100m north of the Belongil Creek mouth at 4.15pm.

Police searched a deep, seaweed-filled gutter near the creek mouth before lifeguards and volunteer lifesavers from the Byron Bay and Brunswick Heads surf clubs joined the mission.

A Ballina jetboat rescue craft and two Gold Coast helicopters also searched the water without success.

Far North Coast Lifeguard supervisor Peter Baird said he believed the woman could not have survived.

"It's a terrible spot to be swimming. Right where she went missing is a massive big rip," he said.

"We're looking for a body at this stage.

"Unfortunately that can happen when people swim in unpatrolled areas."

Although conditions were rough and there was heavy rain, Byron Bay's Main Beach was open and patrolled at the time of the woman's disappearance.

Mr Baird had few details about the woman last night, other than she was of Asian descent, in her 20s, and had been holidaying in Byron Bay.

About 6pm a group of visibly distraught people, also of Asian descent, gathered at the scene to watch the final hour of the search.

Mr Baird has previously called on the tourism industry to help educate international visitors about surf safety.

German tourist Sven Rueby, 34, drowned off Lennox Head in January, while 20-year-old Brunswick Heads man Thomas Houghton disappeared near the Brunswick River mouth the same month.



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