A search at the Bega River mouth, north of Tathra, for two missing swimmers ended in tragedy. Photo: Ben Smyth
Police say a 19-year-old Bega man who drowned near Tathra on Wednesday was one of five locals swimming in warm weather before being caught in an outgoing tide.
A NSW Police media spokeswoman said on Friday that the man’s name would not be released and a report into the death was being prepared for the state coroner.
Beachgoers and locals from the on the south coast town watched the rescue operation unfold at about 4.30pm, with surf lifesavers, police and marine rescue crews assisted by the Westpac Life Saver Rescue helicopter.
The 19-year-old was airlifted to a nearby sports ground where CPR was carried out for more than half an hour but he died at the scene.
Inspector Jason Edmunds of Bega Police said three of the swimmers had managed to make their own way to shore while two others, both aged 19, remained unaccounted for after getting into difficulties in the strong current.
One of the men was rescued by a member of the Tathra Surf Club emergency response team and was taken to Bega Hospital with minor injuries.
Rescue team member Andy Johnson said the man held onto a rock as the tide swept both young men out of the river.
The ex-Navy and police diver was alerted to the emergency via text message.
“We made contact with police to assess the situation and then I swam across the river to rescue one of the boys,’’ Mr Johnson said.
“He had floated on the current to the last rock in the river mouth – he was able to grab hold of that last rock, but his friend sadly missed it.
“He rock-hopped his way back.
“I checked that he was okay and the first thing to do was to get him across the river to where the ambulance was.”
A land, sea and air search continued for the other swimmer and he was eventually spotted by a rescue helicopter and lifesavers.
The man's death coincided with the release of Royal Life Saving's national drowning report for 2013, which showed 291 people drowned nationally between July 1 2012 and June 30 2013; a five per cent increase from the previous year.
The NSW Police spokeswoman said the body of a man found by whale watchers near Eden on Wednesday had also been identified by investigators.
The man’s name will not be released and there were no suspicious circumstances leading to his death.