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Crowds witnessed man drown: rescuer

Australians Flock To The Sea On Christmas Day
A man has drowned after becoming distressed in the water near the iconic town of Byron Bay. Picture: James D. Morgan / Getty Images

A local surfer who leapt to action after seeing two men drowning at a popular surf beach has spoken out about the horrific ordeal.

At about 4.15pm on Sunday, emergency services were called to Boulders Beach on the coastline between Lennox Head and Skennars Head, about 20km south of Byron Bay in NSW, after reports of two swimmers in distress.

Michael “Crispy” Crisp, who grew up by the ocean and has been surfing his whole life, told NCA NewsWire the two men had been fishing on the rocks above the water when tragedy struck.

“I was surfing with my kids; it was a perfect, sunny offshore day,” Mr Crisp said.

“There were a lot of spectators up on the hill; I could just see them pointing at one spot.

“I saw a police officer running down with a lifeguard, and I told the kids to into shore. I paddled out to where the two were.

The brothers were brought to the sandy spot in the rocks after they were pulled from the water. Picture: Michael Crisp
The brothers were brought to the sandy spot in the rocks after they were pulled from the water. Picture: Michael Crisp

He said the 57-year-old man had taken a fall into the water below, and his 34-year-old brother had jumped in to save him.

“They were both in trackies, neither had anything to float on.”

“A couple of my mates were out there free surfing, so I told them to get the guys on their boards.

“One was conscious, but one wasn’t, so I did a quick check on him before getting him on the board and holding him with a leg hook.”

The leg hook technique taught to lifesavers. Picture: Supplied
The leg hook technique taught to lifesavers. Picture: Supplied

He explained that surfers in the area had learned how to perform the manoeuvre in case of emergencies, which allows them to paddle with a person hooked under their legs.

The pair was taken to a small sandy spot in the rocks, but Mr Crisp said it was clear time had run out for the older man.

Officers from the Richmond Police District as well as paramedics performed CPR, but sadly the 57-year-old passed away at the scene.

“The younger brother was sick quite a few times; it was clear he’d taken in a lot of water,” Crispy said.

A lifeguard since the start of the pandemic, Mr Crisp has urged anyone who considers getting in the water to “do their 10,000 hours” first, because “you never know when the weather will change”.

He said surfers can engage with their local surf clubs to learn practical techniques if they come across someone in danger.

“You can’t learn that stuff off an app, but you can talk to old fishermen or someone who has had a lot of experience; it goes a lot further.

“When I got home, all I wanted to do was give my kids a hug and tell them I love them.

“You never know when that could be you.”

Police are continuing to investigate the circumstances of the incident and a report will be prepared for the coroner.