60-year-old man died helping to save relatives
THE man who died after a suspected drowning at Wooli Beach on Boxing Day was Geoffrey Blackadder from Grafton.
About 1.15pm emergency services were called to Wooli Beach, east of Grafton, following reports a man was pulled from the water and was unresponsive.
Police have been told the 60-year-old had earlier attempted to assist up to four children - understood to be the victim's relatives - who had been caught in a rip and were experiencing difficulties about 75 metres north of the breakwall at Wooli.
Surf Rescue assisted and the children were pulled to safety. Mr Blackadder was also pulled from the water and CPR was performed for almost an hour; however, he died at the scene. Police from Coffs/Clarence Local Area Command will prepare a brief for the Coroner.
Attempted rescue ends in tragedy
The Daily Telegraph reported Mr Blackadder was swimming with four children when the children were swept 25m north of the flags at Wooli Beach.
His great-niece, Jasmine Blackadder, spotted the group in trouble and went to help. She said she feared she would drown as she attempted to drag her 16-year-old sister and three young cousins out of rough surf.
"I thought, 'I need to breathe or I'm going down with them'," she said.
When she got back to the beach, she saw her great uncle's limp body being lifted onto a rescue board by a lifeguard. The 19-year-old said she helped drag an unconscious Mr Blackadder to shore.
"I just dropped, I was so exhausted, I couldn't breathe. Then I looked back and I knew he was gone. He was always so beautiful with all the kids, he'd go to the end of the earth for them."
Mr Blackadder had taken his relatives to the beach for the day trip from Grafton 50km away.
His sister-in-law Frances Blackadder said he was a "caring, loving guy who would jump in for anybody".
"If you said you needed a shirt, he'd give you the one on his back. I keep telling Jasmine if it wasn't for her we could have lost five of us out there. But she's just still so upset she couldn't save her uncle," she said.
Clarence Valley Lifeguard supervisor Greg Whyllie said the swell was up to one metre and the group was caught in a "flash rip" pulling them into deeper water. He said two guards reacted quickly at the remote beach.
"They managed to save the four kids and were helped by an off duty police officer. Ideally we would have liked five successful rescues," he said. "(The great uncle) has gone to help the girls and the situation escalated."
At least three Boxing Day drowning tragedies in NSW
THE tragedy at Wooli one of three Boxing Day drownings across the state.
A 27-year-old drowned while swimming with friends at a Kangaroo Valley picnic ground at 3.15pm and a 56-year-old died after being pulled unresponsive from Merry Beach at 6.25pm, both on the South Coast and both men from Sydney.
Police are also searching for a 25-year-old man who went missing in the Nepean River in Western Sydney at 3.30pm on Boxing Day.