Tragic end in search for missing swimmer

Somerset Beach and the mouth of the Cam River estuary. Picture: Supplied
A woman has spent the night lost at a remote swimming spot in northwest Tasmania. Picture: Supplied

Police have called off the search for a missing 22-year-old swimmer after she disappeared off the Tasmania’s rugged northwest coast.

Emergency services were called to Somerset Beach near the Cam River at Somerset shortly after 2pm on Friday.

Police say she was seen to be having “difficulty in strong currents,” before a large-scale search operation involving Westpac Rescue and police helicopters, a Police Dive squad, and a Police, and TasPorts vessel quickly commenced.

Operations continued on Saturday and Sunday before police confirmed the search would be suspended at about 5.32pm Sunday.

“Expert opinion has indicated that the missing person could not have survived, after she went missing while swimming at Somerset Beach yesterday,” they said in a statement.

Tasmania Police Inspector Adrian Shadbolt said his thoughts were with the woman’s family, whose name will not be released at their request.

“Significant and intense search efforts by all involved in the search over the previous two days in the search zone have sadly, failed to locate the missing person,” he said.

Somerset Beach and the mouth of the Cam River estuary. Picture: Supplied
Somerset Beach and the mouth of the Cam River estuary. Picture: Supplied

Inspector Shadbolt said the woman had been swimming with her 26-year-old sister and nine-year-old brother at the time.

Officers believed the woman became caught in a rip while her siblings were able to escape from the powerful current.

“The local conditions are very challenging as far as currents are concerned, particularly leading into the river,” he said.

“Coupled with the capacity of the young lady – she had a medical condition – limited her swim-ability.

“They (the siblings) have lost a family member that was dear to them … They live locally at Camdale.”

Police have used “local knowledge of currents” and data from an ocean buoy to help plot the search area.

The continued search will be conducted on a “day to day basis”, with a call to be made later today on whether to continue.

Inspector Shadbolt described the effort of 56 volunteers as “phenomenal” and that it made him “proud to be Tasmanian”.

Surf life saving clubs were also involved in searching the shoreline, which Inspector Shadbot said they were specifically skilled at.

Somerset Beach is located at the mouth of the Cam River between the northwest townships of Wynyard and Burnie

The beach and adjacent river are popular for fishing, swimming, and kayaking, and family leisure activities.