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A fifty-year-old mother of two drowned yesterday while attempting to rescue one of her children who was caught in a rip at Congo Beach on the NSW Far South Coast.

Just before 4.30pm yesterday, Sunday 17 January 2021, emergency services were called to Congo Beach, south of Moruya, after reports a number of people were stuck in a rip.

A nearby surfer rescued the woman and a 10-year-old boy and brought them back to shore. They were pulled from the water by witnesses who commenced CPR on the woman.

NSW Ambulance paramedics and Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter crewman arrived on the scene a short time later and took over CPR on the woman.

Volunteer surf lifesavers from nearby Moruya Surf Life Saving Club were tasked to the incident in an IRB (rubber ducky) and, after arriving at the scene, assisted NSW Ambulance paramedics with CPR.

Despite the efforts of emergency service personnel, the woman could not be revived and she died a short time later. She has since been formally identified by NSW Police as a 50-year-old woman from Sydney.

The 10-year-old boy was assessed by Ambulance paramedics as being uninjured.

It is believed that the woman may have entered the water to assist her son who was caught in a rip but quickly got into difficulty herself.

According to Surf Life Saving Duty Officers who attended, surf conditions at the time of the incident were quite large, with a 1.5 metre swell and large sets of waves hitting the beach.

Congo Beach is in a very remote location and is not patrolled by volunteer surf lifesavers or lifeguards.

Cheryl McCarthy, Director of Lifesaving at Surf Life Saving Far South Coast, said that the incident was a tragic reminder of how unpredictable the surf can be.

“These call-outs are difficult for everyone involved and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the woman who drowned at Congo yesterday,” Cheryl McCarthy said.

Steven Pearce, CEO of Surf Life Saving NSW, said that the incident was a tragic end to what should have been a happy day on the beach for the young family.

“It is such a natural reaction to race into the water to try and rescue a family member or friend in trouble. Unfortunately, it is often the case that the rescuer also ends up in trouble and we see tragedies like this each year," Steven Pearce said.

"If you can find a rescue device of some sort, a bodyboard or even an esky lid to use as a flotation device, it can buy you or the person you are rescuing time until help arrives," he said.

This is the third incident since 1 July 2020 where a bystander has drowned while attempting to rescue someone caught in a rip. The two other recent drownings occurred at Woonona Beach, Illawarra and Frazer Beach on the Central Coast.

On average, there are around two bystander drowning deaths per season which make up just over five percent of all coastal drowning deaths annually. The average age of a bystander rescue drowning victim is 42.

Surf Life Saving NSW extends its condoleces to the family and freinds of the woman at this time.

Since 1 July 2020, 20 people have drowned on the NSW coastline. During the 2019/20 season, 49 people drowned on the NSW coastline.

Beach Safety Tips

  • Always swim between the red and yellow patrol flags, for your nearest patrolled beach check the BeachSafe app or website

  • Read the safety signs for information about the beach and ask a lifesaver or lifeguard for safety information

  • Always swim with someone else so you can look out for each other, and always supervise children around the water

  • Never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs

  • If you need help in the water, stay calm and attract attention by raising one arm

  • In an emergency, dial Triple Zero

For information about patrol times, weather, and beach locations visit the Beachsafe Website or Download the App.

Monday 18 January 2021