BOY, 5, FEARED DROWNED IN MANN RIVER
By SALLY GORDON
THE final hours of an outback holiday turned into a nightmare for one family yesterday morning when their five-year-old son went missing in the Mann River at Cangai.
By 5.30pm yesterday the child still had not been found and rescue service personnel fear the boy drowned.
The family, visitors to the area, had been staying riverside in a caravan about one kilometre inland along the Cangai Road and about 15km west of Jackadgery.
Grafton police said that around 11am the family had been packing up their belongings when the boy fell off the Cangai Bridge and into a fast-flowing section of the Mann River.
They said the child had been been standing on the wooden bridge when he lost his balance and tumbled in.
A family friend, who was close-by, dived in to try and save the child.
It is believed when the middle-aged man grabbed hold of the boy, the child was able to slip his arms around the man's neck.
But police said the boy lost his grip when his rescuer leant over to clutch at reeds.
"The adult has tried to take hold of some weeds to prevent him from being swept away with the current," Sergeant Chris Tuite said.
"The child has slipped from his neck and into the water and has not been seen since."
Grafton police and State Emergency Service officers arrived on site before noon and began scouring the Mann River and its banks.
A police helicopter, which was in the area at the time, also was utilised for a sweep of the area.
During the day-long search, member's of the missing boy's family, who were said to be 'absolutely devastated', were being looked after and comforted by Grafton ambulance officers.
The Mann River is frequently used by tourists for canoeing and fishing, but is known for its pockets of rushing currents.
Where the boy fell off the wooden bridge there is a strong current which flows for about 40 metres until it dissipates where the river widens.
Sgt Tuite said officers continued their search until dusk yesterday and would resume at daylight today if needed. Professional divers from Sydney are expected to arrive around noon today.