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Fishermen tell of desperate battle to save boy from sea

SELFLESS and quick witted fishermen mounted a brave rescue on the weekend that saved a father, but couldn't forestall the tragic drowning death of his six year old son.

At Ballina's south wall yesterday fisherman involved in the rescue explained how they moved fast enough to save the father, only to learn that a young boy was also missing in the swirling, muddy and flood swollen storm seas.

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The fishermen Kirk Trease and Mitch Lang raced down the break wall to the beach on its south side after being alerted to trouble.

They saw a man who was clearly in danger.

"He was not doing well at all, he was going under, struggling in a big way," Mr Trease said.

Ballina locals Shayne O'Neill, Kirk Trease and Mitch Langjumped into the water to save a father and his child at South Ballina Wall after a rogue wave dragged the family along the wall.
Ballina locals Shayne O'Neill, Kirk Trease and Mitch Langjumped into the water to save a father and his child at South Ballina Wall after a rogue wave dragged the family along the wall. Marc Stapelberg

He ran down the rocks jumped into the water and pulled the man back to shore with the aid of an Angel Ring.

But it was clear there was more danger.

"The father was shouting he was looking for 'his boy, his boy, his boy'," he said.

With other fishermen including Shayne O'Neill on top of the break wall as spotters, Mr Lang raced down the wall helping to search for the boy.

"When they spotted him I just jumped in and swam 10-15 metres to get to the boy," Mr Lang said.

This was no small feat with a strong rip running and plenty of debris in the water, not to mention the storm swells.

Mr Lang's actions were courageous and "epic," Mr Trease said.

"I could feel the young fellah under the surface before I saw him," Mr Lang said.

It was clear the boy was in real trouble, he said

Getting back to shore he was helped and hindered by the waves, at once dumping on him but also propelling him towards the break wall.

At one point he was thrown the Angel Ring but it was just another thing he had to hold onto while he was concentrating on the boy, so he had to let it go, he said.

But a lot of things did go their way to find and collect the boy and then get the two of them back to shore, he said.

The boy was mainly floating a foot under very brown and dirty water; it was only that a section of his red jumper was filled with air and closer to the surface that they were able to find him at all.

"There was a lot of luck involved," he said.

The boy was unconscious and taken to the top of the break wall where the fishermen performed CPR for at least 25 minutes before being relieved by the crew from the Ballina Jet Boat.

Everyone who was there played their part in the rescue, and everyone worked with each other, Mr Trease said.

Mr O'Neill looked after the father after he was pulled from the water.

"I wanted him to stay strong for his other son, and I also wanted to keep him away from his other son who was getting CPR," Mr O'Neill said.

Despite the best efforts of all concerned the boy was declared dead on arrival at hospital.

Topics:  drowning editors picks south ballina beach



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