How Surf Life Saving Australia failed Matthew Barclay
YOUNG Maroochydore lifesaver Matthew Barclay could have been rescued if a rescue boat was working.
And if the 14-year-old had been wearing a helmet and special life vest, chances are the teenager would have survived what Queensland State Coroner Terry Ryan a short time ago described as a "catastrophic event".
Mr Ryan, in handing down his report into the teenager's death, said Surf Life Saving Australia failed to replace a broken down inflatable rescue boat that could have got to the 14-year-old within seconds of him going under the water.
He died after his board hit a sandbar while he was competing in the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships Kurrawa Beach on March 28.
The board flew into the air, then hit his head, causing the youngster to pass out.
"Matthew was very fit and highly competent in the surf," Mr Ryan said.
"He was actually negotiating the break.
"His board was seen to fly in the air on a sand bank.
"Matthew was seen to be unconscious and buffeted helplessly by the surf."
Mr Ryan made a number of recommendations including having all 17-and-under competitors wear special life vests and helmets and that the organisation ensure inflatable boats and jet skis were operable and ready to rescue participants who hit trouble.
SLSA spokesman Graham Ford said his organisation was looking at ways to make its events safer.
Matthew's body was found offshore from Northcliffe Surf Club about 9.30am the day after he disappeared.
Matthew was the third teen to lose his life in the championships since 1996.
A surfboat collision killed 15-year-old Robert Gatenby in 1996 and 19-year-old Saxon Bird died after being hit in the head with a surf ski in 2010.
Matthew's 2014 inquest heard the ocean was particularly rough on the day he died and that the championships went ahead despite warnings following Saxon Bird's death in similar circumstances.
Rescue boat driver and race official Brett Wakefield told the inquest the water was rough and it could have thrown beach-goers into a sandbank.
"There were broken waves coming in and lots of white water but from the shore it didn't look too bad," Mr Wakefield told the inquest.
In the hours after Matthew's body was found, Maroochydore Surf Life Saving Club life member Ralph Devlin described the teen as a "beautiful" boy who died doing what he loved.
"I guess the comfort we take is that now Matty Barclay is frozen in time," Mr Devlin said.
"He's frozen in time as a beautiful young boy."
"He set high standards for himself and he died doing what he loved and his parents fully understand that." - APN NEWSDESK