Rubber raft trip no joke
PAUL Cooper witnessed a near tragedy at the mouth of Bonville Creek on Monday night when four boys got into trouble in their inflatable raft.
Mr Cooper, from Toormina, was on Sawtell Headland at 6.20pm when he saw the youngsters heading down the creek on the swift outgoing tide.
Panic-stricken, the boys jumped out of the raft and struggled against the current.
"They stopped and started waving their arms and started screaming for help," Mr Cooper said.
"At this stage, I rang 000 and gave them details of what was going on.
"By this stage, a boogie-boarder was helping them over to the rocks. "A Sawtell resident raced down and pulled them from where they were clinging to the rocks.
"They walked up the rocks and over to the rock pool, where they sat for a good few minutes, contemplating their near-death experience. Raft in hand, they then walked off towards Sawtell Caravan Park."
Mr Cooper said emergency services personnel rushed to the scene, and he praised them for their rapid response.
Coffs Harbour City Council's senior lifeguard, Greg Hackfath, said this was the second incident involving a rubber raft in recent weeks.
"These rafts are not so bad in the surf zone, but if they're in creeks, they can be sucked out," Mr Hackfath said.
"If people think they're a seagoing vessel, they're asking for trouble."
Mr Hackfath said creek and river mouths should be avoided when floodwaters were rushing out to sea, and on the outgoing tide.
"All creeks are going to be running pretty hard at the moment," he said.
Bathers should avoid river and creek mouths when the water was dirty not only because of the risk of infection from bacteria, but because sharks liked to feed in dirty water where rubbish was flushed into the ocean from upstream.