‘I could see him struggling... it was really awful’
A BALLINA resident who was on the beach when a swimmer drowned on Sunday afternoon has told of the frantic efforts to save the man's life.
The witness had sat down with two friends to enjoy an afternoon at Kings Beach, near Byron Bay.
"It was a hot day and I had been away working all week, so we decided to go to the beach," he said.
"There was a northerly blowing so (we) tucked ourselves up into the northern corner of the beach.
"There was a lot of cornflake weed in the water, it was low tide and it was very choppy, and you could quite clearly see there was a rip in the southern end going down to the rocks and out, and I knew not to go in the water because of the conditions, but there were a couple of people in."
The witness, who has lived in Ballina for a decade, wished to remain anonymous.
The man spotted two people in the water where the rip was, and he mentioned it to one of his friends.
"Just as I stood up to get a better view, a wave came in and washed them both up against the rocks on the very southern end of the beach," he said.
"You could see they were trying to get a grip but then another wave and washed one of them up onto the rocks, so he was able to call out and signal for help.
The Ballina resident ran across the beach, jumped into the rocks and spotted the swimmer.
"I could see the guy struggling in the wave but he seemed to have a foothold on something," he said.
"I waved to him to follow the current south, with big gestures."
He ran back to the northern end of the beach to grab the Angel Ring flotation device, normally kept at the northern side of the beach.
At that point his friend ran up the hill into the carpark area to call triple-0.
When he came back with the flotation device, the swimmer was face down in the water among the rocks.
He was soon able to jump into the water without endangering his own life to retrieve the swimmer.
This was followed by more than half an hour of CPR administered at the site.
"We were on the rocks, and I knew low tide had happened, but I wasn't sure whether we were going to be swamped by water and at that stage I still didn't know how far emergency services were," the man said.
"There were four or five people around, including a lady who was in a panic on the phone with Triple Zero at the time.
"She saw the whole thing play out, but the other guys were able to help me manoeuvre some towels under the body so we could move him up to a higher rock."
Paramedics arrived via the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter.
They used a defibrillator, but the man, believed to be aged 40, died at the scene.
"His partner was there watching the whole thing and that was really awful," the witness said.
"His partner was also caught in the rip but he managed to get out sooner."
Officers from Tweed/Byron Police District have commenced inquiries into the circumstances surrounding the incident.
A report will be prepared for the Coroner.