Ballina Jet Boat crew brothers Shane and Joe O’Connor work with paramedics in an attempt to revive a woman from Orangeville, who drowned at South Ballina beach last night.
Ballina Jet Boat crew brothers Shane and Joe O’Connor work with paramedics in an attempt to revive a woman from Orangeville, who drowned at South Ballina beach last night. Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter

Kids watch parents drown at beach

A MAN and a woman drowned in tragic circumstances at South Ballina beach at sunset yesterday, prompting a massive sea searchinvolving the Lismore-based Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter and Ballina Jet Boat Surf Rescue.

It is understood the middle-aged victims were a couple from Orangeville, west of Campbelltown, who were staying at the South Ballina Beach Holiday Park. Their three children raised the alarm after they failed to return from an evening swim.

The father was brought back to the beach unconscious about 6.45pm, with NSW Ambulance paramedics arriving promptly to perform CPR on the man. In the end they were unable to revive him.

Meanwhile, the mother, still missing in the surf, prompted an air and sea search of the area with the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter eventually spotting her floating face down in a rip in the surf zone, 500 metres to the south and less than 50 metres off the beach.

Jet boat captain Garry Meredith said helicopter pilot Terry Mortimer guided them to her location, where crewman Shane O’Connor dived overboard to swim the body to the beach. Meanwhile, Mr Meredith and crew member Carl Virtue remained on board. Another crew member, Joe O’Connor, had been dropped off on the beach earlier to liaise with paramedics before running to help his brother in the water.

The O’Connor brothers performed CPR on the woman where she lay on the beach, keeping up their demanding vigil until paramedics were able to come to their aid.

She was pronounced dead soon after.

The tragedy follows a horror summer for drownings, with one at Ballina’s Lighthouse Beach before Christmas and another 40-plusoccurring nationwide.

Rikki Grinberg, from the South Ballina Beach Holiday Park, said last night’s drownings emphasised the need for more permanent lifeguard services at the remote andunsuspecting beach.

“The surf was really quite mild and the rip not strongtoday,” she said.

“But people panic. That’s why you’ve got to have more lifeguard services here.”

Ms Grinberg said a request for services to extend beyond January 3 fell on deaf ears.

Writing to Northern NSW Lifeguard co-ordinator Scott McCartney, she asked for an extension of the professional lifeguard service ‘until after the second weekend in January due to the high numbers of residents with visitors and, of course, the large number of tourists in the two caravan parks’.

“Other peak period times are the Australia Day long weekend, one week over Easter, the Queen’s Birthday long weekend and, of course, school holidays. Could we also contemplate placing lifeguards on the beach for those dates,” she wrote.

“The Ballina Beach Village is happy to continue its sponsorship by providing free accommodation, food and facilities for storage for the guards on duty during these periods. We look forward to working with you to make this a safer beach.”

In response to her email, Mr McCartney met with Ballina Shire Council but was told: “Council appreciates the feedback but have advised that a formal contract has beenentered into for the next five years and the service levels have been set in that.

“The Ballina Beach Village might want to make a formal submission to council to ext-end the South Ballina service. The other option is that the Village might want to enterinto a formal arrangement with the ALS, but this might prove costly.”



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