Greg Hackfath hopes Diggers Beach, where a man drowned on Sunday, can have weekend patrols.
Greg Hackfath hopes Diggers Beach, where a man drowned on Sunday, can have weekend patrols.

DANGER ZONE

By CRAIG McTEAR

IF Greg Hackfath had his way, beach patrols along the Coffs Coast would be boosted to help save lives.

But Coffs Harbour City Council's senior lifeguard says it 'all comes back to resources'.

Mr Hackfath said the drowning of a Canberra man, 55, at Diggers Beach on Sunday, when the beach was not patrolled, was a tragedy and that he felt extremely sorry for the man's family.

It is the second drowning on local beaches so far this season, which does not end until April.

Mr Hackfath said Diggers Beach, which is only patrolled during school holidays in the surf season, was more popular among beachgoers than Park Beach, and ran second to Sawtell.

Park Beach and Sawtell Beach are the only ones patrolled seven days a week during the surf season ? Mondays to Fridays by council lifeguards and weekends and public holidays by the surf clubs.

"I'll be recommending to my manager to look at weekend patrols at Diggers, on top of the school holiday patrols, as a trial, to determine how many people visit outside the holiday periods," Mr Hackfath said.

"In an ideal world, Red Rock, Woolgoolga, Diggers Beach, Jetty Beach, Park Beach and Sawtell would be patrolled for seven months of the year."

"However, the council doesn't have an endless bucket of money."

Police have not yet released the name of the dead man, who had been at the beach with family and friends.

He had entered the water with another man from the middle of the beach about 1.40pm and a rip dragged them about 70 metres offshore.

"There was a fairly benign hole and rip at the time," Mr Hackfath said.

"It just highlights the fact that on the east coast of Australia, any beach can be very dangerous."

Two local boardriders who were in the water at the time heard a call for help and responded. They were about 50m away from the pair at the time and caught a wave to help them.

One of the rescuers dragged one of the pair onto his board and safely made it to shore.

However, the other board rider discovered the 55-year-old floating on his back, unconscious.

"I thought he was just floating," the boardrider, who did not wish to be named, said.

"I held his head above the water and had one arm around my board to hold myself up, and kicked my way in.

"We had to swim across the rip to get to the beach.

"Other boardriders could hear me yelling and came to help. The man was carried up the beach."

Bystanders tried to resuscitate the man while waiting for ambulance officers to arrive.

Paramedics began advanced life support but could not revive the man.

"The conditions on the day were like a millpond. It was a very small surf and very calm. It is hard to imagine how this could happen," the boardrider said.

Mr Hackfath said the two boardriders had done a 'mighty job'.

"Surfboard riders rescue people every day along the North Coast and really need some sort of recognition," he said.

"It comes back to the fact people should always swim in patrolled areas and swim between the flags. Park Beach to the south was patrolled.

"If the beach is not patrolled and people are determined to swim, they should at the very least bathe near surfboard riders.

"People who are not surf-savvy aren't aware that when deep water is working off a hole, you only need a few large waves to come through to get that current running and drag them out to sea."



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