Lifesavers at Lighthouse Beach keep watch on the dangerous surf conditions causing strong southerly rips.
Lifesavers at Lighthouse Beach keep watch on the dangerous surf conditions causing strong southerly rips. Jay Cronan

Drowned man 'was between flags'

THE BRISBANE-based engineer who tragically drowned at Lighthouse Beach on Sunday was swimming between the flags according to a family member who was there.

Contrary to initial reports from lifesavers in yesterday’s Northern Star, 54-year-old Colin Peter Ward and his 20-year-old Melbourne-based son were swimming in the patrolled area when they were caught in a strong southerly rip.

The pair had been bodysurfing when Mr Ward lost a pair of swimming glasses.

They were attempting to retrieve the glasses when they got into difficulty at about 11.20am.

Local surfers have told The Northern Star that a strong southerly sweep has been operating just beyond the break that could have swept anyone away in seconds, and that conditions had been particularly treacherous on the turning tide recently.

One surfer, who didn’t want to be named, said he had been surfing for more than 20 years and had never seen conditions change as quickly as they had on Sunday afternoon.

“It was a radical change in conditions. It just turned on a dime,” he said

“It was right on the tide change and the surf went from a really good wave to a closing-out mess instantly.”

Northern NSW Lifeguard co-ordinator Scott McCartney confirmed the conditions were deceptively treacherous and warned swimmers to be vigilant, particularly on the incoming tide.

He said lifesavers had done everything they possibly could have to save Mr Ward.

Mr Ward drowned at the beach on Sunday after being hit by a powerful wave and caught in a strong rip.

As he was swept south he was dumped by a series of waves and failed to resurface.

Mr Ward’s son made it to shore and lifesavers on jet skis and an inflatable boat, with assistance from the Ballina Jet Rescue Boat, located Mr Ward’s body at the mouth of the Richmond River several hundred metres down the beach.

Police are preparing a brief for the coroner.



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