Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter
Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter

Woman drowns at Sandy Beach

SANDY BEACH was the scene of heart-wrenching anguish yesterday afternoon after a young woman drowned in the surf.

The combination of an overseas tourist swimming in dangerous conditions at the northern end of the unpatrolled beach had fatal consequences.

Woolgoolga Police Sergeant Peter Saunders said the 21-year-old Chinese student was unable to be revived by paramedics after she was found floating unconscious in the surf.

The Sandy Beach family the woman had been staying with could only watch on helplessly, as emergency services and lifeguards mounted a major search and rescue operation.

Panic gripped those on the beach after the woman and a 14-year-old girl got into trouble while riding boogie boards shortly before 2pm.

Locals raised the alarm when the mother of the younger girl appeared distressed on the beach.

Onlookers watched in despair as the pair were pulled out to sea by a strong rip.

Edward Kunst from Sandy Beach was one of the first in the water followed by Brad, a Sydneysider currently holidaying locally.

Mr Kunst managed to reach the younger girl and pulled her to safety.

“I was just saying please don’t let go of the board,” Mr Kunst said.

“She was petrified; I could see it in her face. All I did was show her how to clench onto the board and got her to hold on and the waves brought her in.

As they attempted to find the missing woman, her boogie board washed ashore, sparking grave concerns for her safety.

Council employed lifeguard Shaun Cansdell, who was patrolling nearby Emerald Beach, rushed to the scene and found the woman unconscious in the surf.

Head council lifeguard Greg Hackfath also attended from Coffs Harbour.

A NSW Ambulance Service spokesperson confirmed attempts to revive the woman failed an hour after the alert was raised.

“I kept trying to see if I could swim out and see if I could find her (but) I was getting dumped, I came up and swallowed so much water. I was buggered, I was getting swamped, I don’t know how Brad came in,” Mr Kunst said.

“Then I saw the dad coming in and I was yelling at him to not go in, there was nothing you could do, but I can see why he did it.

“I can understand the stress because someone was out there drowning.

“It’s just a tragedy and I am sorry to see it happen. It just goes to show you just how dangerous it is out there.”

Police say the woman is yet to be formally identified, while the family has undergone counselling.

“The woman was staying with a Sandy Beach family and while they share the same surname they are not related,” Sgt Saunders said.

“The Department of Immigration and the Chinese Consulate have been notified of the incident and attempts are being made to notify the woman’s family in China,” he said.

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