Quiet, lovely ? and menacing
By DAVID MOASE and CRAIG McTEAR
FOR A visitor like April Shuey, Red Rock's picturesque Little Beach would not have held many fears. The small stretch of sand, with the headland on one side and the estuary on the other, is a popular place for families to swim and enjoy the sunshine, and even as a venue for weddings.
It would have seemed the perfect place for 23-year-old Ms Shuey, a University of New England exchange student from Howard, Pennsylvania, and four friends to spend the afternoon on Saturday as part of a weekend camping trip. But while the setting is idyllic, the combination of fast-flowing water from the estuary and the jagged rocks can quickly turn delight into danger.
And the risks are increased because of the difficulty surf club members have getting rescue equipment to the beach from their storage shed, via a distant boat ramp.
A warning sign at the steps above the beach explains the danger, but it was not enough to deter Ms Shuey and her friends from entering the water on a day that took her life and could easily have taken others.
She was waist-deep in the water with her four friends when she found herself in trouble. She was dragged off the beach with a 20-year-old male friend by the fierce rip ? dragged out around the headland on to Lions Head Rock.
Red Rock Surf Club members launched an inflatable rescue boat and when police arrived on the scene, the pair were 150 metres off the main beach.
The Woolgoolga police officer, with help from members of the public, swam out to the couple and dragged them onto the beach. But efforts to revive Ms Shuey were unsuccessful.
The man was taken to Coffs Harbour Health Campus and treated for cuts to his upper body and hypothermia.
According to Red Rock Corindi Surf Life Saving Club president, Rodney McSkimming, the area was at its most dangerous at the weekend.
"A couple of experienced life savers were walking in the area on Friday and one said the flow of the water coming out of estuary was the fastest he had seen in a long time," he said.
Mr McSkimming explained that the beach can become more dangerous due to a combination of tide, wave size and shifting sands.
At the weekend the water was moving quickly from the mouth of the estuary, across the beach about 50-60 metres out to sea and toward the rocks.
The surf club was established just over 15 years ago after a father and son both drowned while swimming in waters not far from where the American woman was taken by the rip on Saturday.