Man dies in surf at Brooms Head
A MAN who had been holidaying at the Brooms Head caravan park died yesterday after he was pulled from a rip.
Brian Donelly, 69, of Dyraaba near Casino, and his wife of 40 years, Carol, were swimming in one-metre swell close to the southern corner of Brooms Head beach at 11am when Townsend man Justin Ross noticed they were both in trouble.
“I was swimming with my two kids and the elderly couple were right next to us,” he said.
“I went in to put on some sun block and the old guy started yelling for help.”
Mr Ross drove to the Snack Shack, some 100 metres away, to ask for a rescue board to attempt rescue.
He found a surf ski and ran to where the couple were, in what he estimates to have been about a five-minute timeframe.
“By the time I got back I couldn’t see the man at all and the lady was starting to go under,” Mr Ross said.
An unnamed surfer brought Mr Donelly to shore, while Mr Ross rescued Mrs Donelly.
“She was exhausted, she couldn’t walk,” Mr Ross said.
An off-duty ambulance officer from Brisbane, John Vantebbere, ran to the caravan park office to get a defibrillator that had been bought by the community just 12 months ago.
The park’s manager Danielle Barrett, along with tourist, Alison Graham, performed CPR on the man.
An ambulance arrived about 25 minutes later but officers were unable to revive the victim.
Brooms Head Rural Fire Service co-ordinator and life-long resident, Boots Towner, said that it was the first drowning at Brooms Head beach to his recollection, a view also held by local historian Joyce Plater.
Clarence Valley Lifeguard supervisor Greg Wiley agreed that of the seven patrolled beaches in the Valley, Brooms was at the bottom of the list in terms of a drowning hazard.
The Clarence Lifeguard duty officer said that yesterday there was ‘virtually no rip’.
Mrs Donelly, however, told police that the undertow was strong so she and her husband headed for shore, but were hit by two strong waves.
The Donellys had been going to Brooms Head for holidays since 1972.
Mr Donelly had had a triple bypass operation in recent years but had never suffered a heart attack.
Mrs Donelly was taken by ambulance to Maclean District Hospital, where she was admitted for observation.