Beach tragedy


Beach tragedy

MIRBOO North teenager Leighton Erbs has been remembered as a remarkable young man committed to family, friends and community, after he drowned at Cape Paterson on Saturday.

The tributes came as emergency services consider nominating friends and bystanders for awards, after their distinguished response to the ordeal.

Leighton, 16, drowned after being washed from rocks by a freak wave at The Oaks beach shortly before 1pm on Saturday.

The skater was a student at South Coast Christian College in Leongatha and a player with the Mirboo North Football Club.

A RIP Facebook site established in Leighton’s memory described him as “such a nice bloke and a good footy player. You were taken too soon. You will be missed and never be forgotten”.

Others posted similar tributes on Leighton’s Facebook page on Saturday night.

College interim principal Lisa Dumicich said the whole school community was in mourning.

“Leighton was a much loved member of the community and our heartfelt prayers go out to his family at this time,” she said.

“The wellbeing of the staff and students of the college is our highest priority, and we have in place extra chaplaincy and counselling to help our community members to deal with their grief.

“We are also very grateful for the Leongatha Christian community who are supporting us through the grieving process.”

Mirboo North Football Club president Paul Pratt said the club was “saddened”.

“He was a really good team player, well liked and turned up for training. He was just a delightful young man. He was polite, respectful, and a great young man and person,” he said.

The club was yesterday (Monday) yet to speak to Leighton’s parents but players could wear black armbands in the first home match of the 2014 season in honour of Leighton.

He played in the club’s Fourths side and had risen through the ranks of the club’s junior team, the Cats, and was known for his versatility.

Sergeant Matt Simpson of Wonthaggi Police said Leighton was missing for 20 minutes before he was spotted in the water and retrieved by friends.

Bystanders performed CPR and they were commended by paramedics for a “textbook” first aid response, Sgt Simpson said.

“They did an awesome job before police and paramedics got there and took over. They tried for 50 minutes to revive him but to no avail,” he said.

Sgt Simpson said up to 20 people were at the beach at the time, all aged 16-23, as well as off duty nurses, many of them from the Leongatha and Warragul areas.

“They were all brilliant and did what they could to help, and reacted with dignity and respect,” he said.

Leighton was washed off the rocks along with a Wonthaggi boy.

Blake Tomada of Dumbalk and another friend were pushed back onto the rocks by the same wave, but Blake managed to rescue the Wonthaggi teen by lifting him from the sea.

Blake’s father Tony Tomada said the boys and their families were “doing it fairly tough”.

“He (Leighton) was a nice young bloke. The boys have been mates for many, many years,” Mr Tomada said.

The boys were conveyed to Wonthaggi Hospital before police arrived and were treated for abrasions sustained from being washed against the rocks.

They were discharged on Saturday evening and were to be offered counselling from the Salvation Army.

“They were just good kids having innocent fun and a freak wave did the damage,” Sgt Simpson said.

Police from Inverloch and Wonthaggi attended, as did paramedics and the Air Ambulance. The police helicopter was called to the scene to ensure no other people were in the water.

Sgt Simpson said conditions were rough at the time and combined with an incoming tide, waves were bigger.

Inverloch surfer Simon Olden was surfing at The Oaks on Saturday and left an hour before the incident.

He said reported some “big sets” of waves rolling in at the time.

“Every now and then you would get a big one that would splash right over,” Mr Olden said.

Sgt Simpson said the incident was a reminder to people to take care around the coast, whether beachcombing or fishing from rocks.

Among the bystanders was a 15 year old volunteer lifesaver from Venus Bay Surf Life Saving Club. He helped alert emergency services and in the resuscitation attempt.

“Be aware of the dangers around water today and prepare by looking out for yourself and others,” said Greg Scott, manager of lifesaving operations at Life Saving Victoria.

“Be aware that beaches are not patrolled by lifesavers and prepare by checking it’s OK to swim, by never swimming alone and by reading and obeying the water safety signs.”

Police will prepare a report for the Coroner.

Emergency scene: the Air Ambulance winched a paramedic to The Oaks beach. Photo: Channel 7

Emergency scene: the Air Ambulance winched a paramedic to The Oaks beach. Photo: Channel 7

Short URL: /?p=9055

Posted by on Oct 22 2013. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Share your love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *