‘No one really to blame’

The holiday park where the Sherry family where staying before both parents drowned on South Ballina Beach on Tuesday afternoon.
The holiday park where the Sherry family where staying before both parents drowned on South Ballina Beach on Tuesday afternoon. Jay Cronan

JOHN COPELAND has lived 24 years at South Ballina, but has never known a day as sad as Tuesday when a husband and wife on holiday from Sydney drowned at the South Ballina Beach in front of their children.

Mr Copeland said he had never believed South Ballina Beach to be more dangerous than any other Northern Rivers beach, and had never known of a drowning there until Tuesday.

“I knew there was something wrong, but I didn’t know what was wrong until I read in the paper what happened. There were police cars and ambulances and you could hear the helicopter,” he said.

Mr Copeland said his own family regularly swam at the beach that claimed the lives of Carole, 44, and Joseph Sherry, 42.

However, he said he had never considered the beach to be particularly dangerous for swimming

“I suppose it could be tricky if you are just up on holidays,” Mr Copeland said.

“These things can happen and there’s no one really to blame for them.

“I personally can’t recall any drownings (on the South Ballina Beach). Something like this has never happened. This is sadder than anything else I can remember.”

Mr Copeland was not the only one reflecting on the tragedy.

The South Ballina Holiday Park, where the couple had been staying, was quiet yesterday, despite the many holidaymakers staying there, and the beach where the couple died all but deserted.

Another resident, who asked her name be withheld, said she felt for the couple’s children.

“I hope something good comes of this terrible tragedy,” she said, referring to the South Ballina community’s long push to have lifeguard patrols at the beach.

“I can’t imagine what they (Mr and Mrs Sherry’s three children) are going through.

“If you’ve ever had to resuscitate someone it’s not pleasant, and to have young children there while it’s happening. That will stay with them for ever.”

Drownings in December 2009 and January 2010
  •   NSW – 17: Bateau Bay, Murray River, Lake Hume, Ballina, Yamba, Shoalhaven, Edward River, Point Potter, Albury, Moruya, St Clair, Lake Glenbawn, Bellambi, Port Macquarie, Ballina, South Ballina.
  •   QLD – 11: Tangalooma, Brisbane, Thomatis Creek, Agnes Waters, Tallebudgera Creek, Surfers Paradise, Sunshine Coast, Dimbulah, Thursday Island, Gold Coast.
  •   WA – 3: Perth, Yallingup, Fremantle.
  •   VIC – 6: Cape Shank, Melbourne, San Remo, Gippsland, Glen Waverley, Lancefield.
  •   TAS – 1: Bruny Island.
  •   NT – 3: Palmerston, Alice Springs.
  •   ACT – 1: Canberra.
  •   SA – 2: Semaphore, West Lakes.

Source: Royal Life Saving Society

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