Evans Head surf lifesavers return to the beach after a search for a man missing in the surf at Main Beach, Evans Head, yesterday.
Evans Head surf lifesavers return to the beach after a search for a man missing in the surf at Main Beach, Evans Head, yesterday. Cathy Adams

Full-scale search at Evans

A MYSTERIOUS message written in the sand sparked a full-scale land, air and sea search at Evans Head yesterday.

The touching tribute at the base of North Wall read, ‘good bye our son’ and was discovered by a couple out walking at about 7.45am, just after they had spotted a man entering the water and ‘swimming off towards Broadwater’.

After losing sight of the swimmer, who had been caught in a rip, they feared the writing may have been a suicide note and reported it at about 9am to the Evans Head Coast Guard, who then notified police.

With the spate of recent drownings, the combined emergency services were taking no chances and swung quickly into action.

Evans Head Surf Life Saving Club volunteers launched an inflatable rescue boat within six minutes, and a second boat about 20 minutes later.

Both boats began searching the rips and channels close to shore along Main Beach and Airforce Beach.

Police called in the Westpac Rescue Helicopter at 9.35am, which launched within five minutes with a paramedic and rescue swimmer onboard, and the Ballina Jet Rescue Boat which was on the scene by 10am.

NSW Ambulance duty officer Glen Eady dispatched another two paramedics from Evans Head.

Jet boat captain Gary Meredith said he also dispatched a jet ski and 4WD by road.

“Conditions were ideal and it was a quick run down to Evans,” he said.

“We came in from the north end and joined in the chopper’s search pattern.

“From the currents we guessed he may have been out a fair way so we searched along the tide line while the rubber duckies concentrated close to shore.”

Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew chief Roger Fry said they had enough fuel for a one-hour search.

“We tracked a north-south route from the beach to about 3 kms off the coast,” he said.

Just after 11am when the chopper returned to Lismore, the Coast Guard launched its vessel and began searching further out to sea.

Police duty officer Inspector Bill McKenna said the swimmer was an Israeli national on holidays visiting relatives. He presented himself to police about 11.30am having got himself out of trouble and has since returned to Brisbane.

He said to police, ‘I think you are looking for me’.

Insp McKenna said the man had got caught in a rip and swept about 2.5kms out but was a strong swimmer and had done all the right things.

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