Officials are advising swimmers in Australia to follow warnings for hazardous surf after a man died while trying to help a father save his children from strong undercurrents.
Emergency responders were called to Wallongong City Beach, south of Sydney, Sunday afternoon following reports that four children were having trouble swimming, according to 9News.
The father was able to get his two younger kids to dry land but the older children wound up getting trapped in a powerful rip current. Those kids, ages 10 and 12, were dragged further into the ocean.
An off-duty paramedic, who happened to be at the scene, ran in and pulled the 10 year old to safety.
That’s when Shaun Oliver, 32, swam into what officials called “treacherous” water to help the 12-year-old boy. But Oliver got caught in the currents, too. A surfer helped the boy out of the water but Oliver was swept out to sea.
“He was faced with the terrible decision when he heard the cries for help,” wrote Oliver’s brother Nathanael Oliver on a GoFundMe page. “Without a thought for his own safety, [he] launched himself into the water.”
Police officers swam after Oliver, who was face down in the water, and pulled him to shore. Paramedics gave him CPR but he later died at a Wollongong hospital.
The children went swimming in the dangerous conditions despite the beach being closed, but the children’s mother, Islam Hammad, said they didn’t understand the safety protocol.
“The police said no flags, no swim, but we didn’t know that rule,” Hammad said to 9News. “There was nobody here telling us.”
Detective Inspector Brad Ainsworth said the conditions were far too dangerous for swimmers.
“It was treacherous, heavy surf. You have got ticks against everything why you shouldn’t be on the water or near the water,” Ainsworth said.
Following the incident, officials urged swimmers in Australia to follow no-swim warnings, especially since lifeguards don’t start patrol for two more weeks.
“It might look picturesque and quite tame but there’s quite a strong undercurrent and tow dragging through out there,” said Surf Life Saving Illiwarra duty officer Daren Weidner to the Sydney Morning Herald. “Just don’t go in the water if there’s any doubt whatsoever.”
According to a GoFundMe page, Oliver leaves behind three young children and a wife.