Creek tragedy

By DAVID MOASE

THE drowning of a British tourist at the mouth of Coffs Creek on Sunday has left Coffs Harbour senior lifeguard Greg Hackfath saddened and frustrated.

A busy weekend on the city's beaches ended tragically when the 35-year-old from Leeds, on holiday with his family, was washed out of the creek while playing with his 11-year-old daughter.

Caught in the rip, the pair tried to swim to safety and the man was able to push his daughter close enough to the shore that she was able to make it out of the water.

The girl alerted her mother, but by then they had lost sight of her father.

Patrolling Coffs Harbour Surf Life Saving Club members found him floating face down in the water.

They tried to revive the man and were later joined by ambulance officers but the man was declared dead on arrival at Coffs Harbour Health Campus.

Mr Hackfath said the lifesavers had done everything possible to help the man but similar tragedies would happen again if people continued to swim outside the flags.

"It has been a bad start on the beaches as far as the Christmas season goes," he said.

"There have been huge numbers on the beaches in the past week and on Saturday we had massive swells.

"At Diggers Beach in the past week we have done seven rescues."

The lifeguard said he did not know what more could be done to alert people, especially visitors, to the dangers posed by Australia's beaches.

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"While ever people are ignorant of what dangers there are in this country on the beaches, drownings are likely to happen," Mr Hackfath said.

"Any creek or river mouth on an outgoing tide is an extremely dangerous place to swim and possibly overseas tourists don't appreciate the danger.

"But I don't know what else we have to do to get the message across.

"They see videos about beach safety when they are arriving on planes and there is information in every hotel and motel. There are also signs pointing out the dangers.

"What happened on Sunday is very sad but it comes back to people needing to find out about the dangers and swimming between the flags."

Coffs Creek is not patrolled by lifeguards or lifesavers and many regulars in the area say it is dangerous enough to warrant closer attention.

According to Mr Hackfath, however, such a move would stretch the resources of both the council and the surf club.

The building of an observation tower, as part of the Towers of Strength project, would make the area safer.

"We are hoping to get a tower on Park Beach and that should make it easier to observe Coffs Creek," he said.

"Everyone is working hard to finalise the plans for the towers and submit them for approval.

"I am very hopeful the tower on Park Beach will be ready for next summer, in fact I would hope the whole project is finished by next summer."



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