The surf lifesaving crew the late Raz Burtonwood was a member of went back on patrol on Monday, October 7. Pictured are captain Will O'Donnell, Eoin Johnston, Steve McNabb, Tony Rushton, Ruairi O'Donnell, Bill Coulter and Alex Chapman of Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Lifesaving Club.
The surf lifesaving crew the late Raz Burtonwood was a member of went back on patrol on Monday, October 7. Pictured are captain Will O'Donnell, Eoin Johnston, Steve McNabb, Tony Rushton, Ruairi O'Donnell, Bill Coulter and Alex Chapman of Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Lifesaving Club.

Lifesavers remember lost mate in season's first patrol

THE surf lifesaving team that lost a beloved member this year has returned to its Far North Coast patrol.

Days after an inquest was held into the disappearance and suspected death of Lyn "Raz" Burtonwood, the Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Life Saving Club is back on the beach.

Mr Burtonwood disappeared after going for his regular swim at Lighthouse Beach in February.

A coronial inquest last week found Mr Burtonwood had died in an accidental drowning.

Despite extensive efforts from his lifesaving colleagues and other emergency services, his body has never been recovered.

Fellow lifesaver Eoin Johnston was on duty with Mr Burtonwood the morning of his disappearance.

Mr Johnston said this week would be "emotional", as the team marked its first patrol of the first season without their lost mate.

He said he was "disappointed" their lengthy search efforts came up empty, but was hopeful the inquest's completion would mean some closure for Mr Burtonwood's loved ones.

But he said getting back on patrol was what Mr Burtonwood, who was a fit 69-year-old who had a love of many sports, would have wanted.

"I think he'd expect us to do exactly that," he said.

Mr Johnston said his "tough as nails" mate had been out in "much bigger surf", but recalled the water churning like a washing machine the morning of his disappearance.

The beach had been closed at the time, but he said holding him back from the water had never seemed like an option.

"Telling Raz not to go out in the surf was like telling the Pope not to pray," he said.

"On the day, I think the club did everything they could.

"Without finding him... it's hard to come to grips with.

"But ... the club and the zone have done everything they could."

While the coroner found there were no appropriate recommendations that could have prevented Mr Burtonwood's death, or would make the water safer for others, Mr Johnston encouraged beach-goers not to take to the water alone.

"Never think you can't get into trouble," he said.

"Always go with a mate.

"It's not advice for the coroner but it's advice that should be understood and received... take someone with you.

"Things happen and you only have to lose your consciousness for a very short time in the ocean and you're in trouble."

Mr Johnston said it would be surreal for them to be back on the beach without Mr Burtonwood, as it would be odd for local water polo players not to see him in the pool on Monday nights.

"It's such a loss to everyone," he said.

"The whole community ... misses him.

"People often say 'gee it's a shame not seeing Raz anymore'.

"An integral part of the community has been lost."



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