Emergency services undertook a significant recovery operation this morning.
Emergency services undertook a significant recovery operation this morning. Liana Turner

Man who drowned at Fingal Head "loved surfing"

UPDATE: 3.10pm

POLICE have identified the man who drowned in surf at Fingal Head yesterday afternoon.

Tomoe Ogisu, 22, had jumped into water at the headland with a friend before being caught in a rip.

Mr Ogisu, from Japan, had been living in Coolangatta and working in Kingscliff for about four months.

In November, he posted on a Facebook community page asking for recommendations for a sharehouse in the local area.

In the post, Mr Ogisu said he liked surfing "very much" and had travelled to Australia for a working holiday. 

He was looking to meet new people to help improve his English, which he was was "not perfect".

Initial report:

FRIENDS of a 22-year-old man who drowned at Fingal Head yesterday have placed flowers at the site in memory of their lost friend, as police plead with the public to take more care at the treacherous headland.

Emergency services this morning recovered the man's body from about 1.2 km north of the headland.

Friends of the man watched on as rescue crews scoured the area in rainy conditions from Dreamtime Beach in the south to northern Fingal Head Beach.

Emergency services were called to the treacherous headland about 3.10pm yesterday after the man, whom police have confirmed was an Asian backpacker who was working in the area, jumped into the water with a friend before he was caught up in a rip.

The search, involving police and surf lifesavers using jetskis and boats, resumed first thing this morning after wrought conditions including rain and bad light, hampered efforts to rescue him late yesterday.

Tweed Byron Police District Inspector Bobbie Cullen said the man's body was recovered after an "extremely difficult search".

 

Tweed Byron Police District's Brad Foster carries flowers which friends of the drowned man brought to the Fingal Head SLSC.
Tweed Byron Police District's Brad Foster carries flowers which friends of the drowned man brought to the Fingal Head SLSC. Liana Turner

"The conditions around the rocks yesterday afternoon were treacherous and, unfortunately, we weren't in a position to put anybody into the water to rescue him at this stage," Insp Cullen said.

Insp Cullen said this morning's search, including inflatable rescue boats, jetskis and a Marine Rescue vessel began at first light.

She said the man and a friend had jumped into the water before being caught in a strong rip.

"He was with three friends on the southern side of the lighthouse," she said.

"Two of them wanted to test the depth of the water.

"Unfortunately, there was a really strong rip which pulled them out towards the sea."

One of the men was able to swim back to shore, while the 22-year-old - who is yet to be identified - panicked, trying to swim towards the rocks.

"The conditions were just too dangerous for him to get back onto the rocks and find safety," Insp Cullen said.

 

Friends of a man in his 20s who drowned at Fingal Head brought flowers to Fingal Head Surf Life Saving Club this morning,
Friends of a man in his 20s who drowned at Fingal Head brought flowers to Fingal Head Surf Life Saving Club this morning, Liana Turner

Insp Cullen said the man had been in Australia for four months, living in Coolangatta and working in Kingscliff.

As the incident marks the fifth death at the headland since October 2015, Insp Cullen called for greater caution at the deadly stretch of beach.

"This is an absolute tragedy," she said.

"We're called here too frequently for incidents of this nature. We really need to press upon the community and tourists who come here to only swim on secured and patrolled beaches.

"The rips around this area are extremely dangerous and we need them to take that into mind when they're swimming here."

She said Tweed Byron LAC Superintendent Wayne Starling had been involved with discussions about installing flotation devices and a beacon near the lighthouse.

Surf Life Saving duty officer Chris Samuels said any sort of flotation device would be "beneficial" for others who got into trouble at the headland.

But he urged people to be aware of the dangers of rips and "know their limitations".

"There are signs around the area warning people," he said.

"I think education is a big thing and people should just know their limitations. The beach conditions can change in a matter of minutes and become quite dangerous.

"What can look quite calm one minute can quickly change into something dangerous the next."

The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter's drone also assisted in the recovery effort.



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