Rescue vehicles on the beach.
Rescue vehicles on the beach.

Ballina mourns tragedy

SYDNEY woman Carole Sherry rushed into the water at South Ballina Beach to save her two youngest children from a strong current that threatened to tow them out to sea.

That act of love on Monday evening was the last thing she did.

Her husband Joseph’s final act was to try and save his wife after she was snared by the same rip.

A few minutes later Mr and Mrs Sherry were gone, leaving their two girls, Monique, 17, and Elise, 14, and their nine-year-old son, Nicholas, orphaned.

The tragedy – described by one South Ballina resident as the ‘saddest thing’ he had seen in his 24 years in the small community – triggered a wave of sympathy from Northern Rivers residents yesterday, with Lismore police establishing a fund for donations to help the family.

It was understood the children were last night in the care of relatives living on the Northern Rivers and were receiving counselling through emergency services.

The children, from Orangeville near Camden, yesterday also received strong praise from police and lifesavers for their actions during the crisis.

When their 42-year-old father, a chef and TAFE hospitality teacher, got into difficulty while trying to rescue the 44-year-old mother, a school teacher, the young boy ran back to the park to raise the alarm while Elise called 000 on her mobile phone.

Richmond Local Area Command Detective Inspector Greg Moore described the children’s efforts as ‘valiant’.

Surf Life Saving NSW spokesman Scott McCartney also praised the children for their restraint in not following their father into the water and adding their own deaths to the tragedy.

Mr McCartney said the couple were caught in a semi-circular or horse shoe-shaped rip. Mr Sherry escaped the rip before succumbing while Mrs Sherry was dragged several hundred metres up the beach.

A passer-by pulled Mr Sherry into shore, where paramedics tried to revive him, while Ballina Jet Boat crew member Shane O’Connor, and later his brother, Joe, dragged an unconscious Mrs Sherry through 50 metres of currents and rough surf to shore where they began CPR.

The deaths sent shockwaves across the State yesterday as residents here and in the family’s home community of Orangeville, part of the Wollondilly council area, struggled to deal with the magnitude of the tragedy.

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