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Wollongong’s City Beach was the scene of tragedy on Sunday after a man drowned following a valiant attempt to rescue a group of children who had been swept out to sea.

Surf Life Saving assets including local duty officers and emergency callout teams from Wollongong City and North Wollongong SLSCs were tasked to attend.

Conditions throughout the Illawarra and most of the state were extremely hazardous on the weekend with 3-4 metre sets observed at City Beach.

Once on-scene it was established that a group of four children were playing in the shallows when they got into difficulty in the powerful conditions.

The children’s father was able to rescue two of the younger children, but two other boys (aged 10 and 12) were being quickly swept out to sea.

An off-duty paramedic who was on the beach rushed into the water and was able to assist the 10-year old back to the safety of the shore.

One other man who witnessed the unfolding drama later identified as 32-year-old Victorian local Shaun Oliver also went into the water to help.

Mr Oliver was walking past at the time and saw the rescue attempts. He bravely attempted to reach the 12-year-old but tragically got into difficulty himself.

A local surfer went to the aid of the pair and was able to rescue the child but was unable to get to Mr Oliver who was being pulled further out to sea.

Minutes later three policemen went into the water and after a search were able to pull the unconscious Mr Oliver from the surf.

CPR treatment was immediately commenced and continued for over half an hour, but all efforts to revive him failed.

“It is human nature to want to offer assistance in any way possible and it is a tragedy that this incident ended like this,” said Surf Life Saving NSW Lifesaving Manager Matt du Plessis.

“Unfortunately what this has reinforced in the worst possible fashion is the power of the ocean. Conditions at the time weren’t suitable for entering the water in any form and this highlights why it is so important to heed safety warnings and to keep close and immediate contact with young children when around the water.

“On behalf of everyone in Surf Life Saving we would like to extend our condolences to the family and friends of Mr Oliver who will be grieving today after his brave rescue attempt,” he said.

Investigations into the incident are continuing with a report to be prepared for the coroner.


Monday 11 September 2017