Former North Coast local, Cooper Cridland.
Former North Coast local, Cooper Cridland. ERIK SAWAYA

Farewell for dancer who died after accident in Fiji

A RISING ballet star and former North Coast local was laid to rest at the weekend after a tragic accident in Fiji claimed his life.

Cooper Cridland was farewelled on Saturday in Sydney after he suffered fatal injuries in a swimming pool accident while on holiday with his partner, Peter Seares on Christmas Eve.

The former Alstonville local was airlifted to Sydney's Royal North Shore where he remained on life support before he died on December 29.

The 19-year-old has passed on the gift of life by registering to donate his organs.  

The news has shaken the North Coast community with many taking to social media to remember the ex-Byron Bay Primary School and Trinity Catholic College student.

The 19-year-old's former dance teachers were devastated at the talented dancer's death.

Mentor and BalletCoaching director, Monique Feain, watched the former Alstonville boy grow into a world-class dancer from the tender age of seven.

"Cooper was an irresistible, charming but cheeky seven-year-old dance student on the North Coast, he quickly charmed his way into our hearts," Ms Feain said.

Although her time with him was short, Dance Dynamics Byron Bay director Kate Histon said Cooper left his mark in the community.

"Cooper just had this amazing magnetic personality and real ability to make people feel joy and that was on and off the stage," Ms Histon said

After several years of perfecting the art of ballet on the North Coast, Cooper was accepted into The Australian Ballet School in Melbourne in 2011 at age 13.

After attending numerous ballet schools, Cooper catapulted onto the international stage after he competed in the Prix de Lausanne, which is labelled the Olympics of Ballet by the industry professionals.

The global exposure led Cooper to accept a scholarship at the San Francisco Ballet School in 2015.

Friend Richard Misso said Cooper's dance career was only a small part of how he will remember the 19-year-old.


Cooper Cridland  performing at the annual Dance Dynamics Byron Bay concert in 2007.
Cooper Cridland performing at the annual Dance Dynamics Byron Bay concert in 2007. Nicole Cridland

"His accomplishments in dance were huge but for me, the dancing was such a small part," Mr Misso said.

"For me, it was him as a person, he was much bigger."

Mr Misso met Cooper through the Big Brother Big Sister program where they forged a life-long friendship.

Saying goodbye to his "little brother" before his life-support was switched off is something Mr Misso will never forget.

Mr Misso, along with Cooper's partner Peter and mother Nicole Cridland, remained by his dear friend's side during his final days.

"It was really cathartic, we all got to sit around and talk to him, hold his hand, have a nap on the bed with him all those things you normally don't get to do with someone who's about to die," Mr Misso said.

Sipping on hot chocolate and trips to the beach are among Mr Misso's treasured memories with Cooper, along with the young man's drive to succeed. 

"He always wanted to create his own destiny from age seven and that was something that always inspired me," he said.

A Gofundme called Cooper Cridland's Memorial Fund has been established to help support his mother with on-going costs.