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Classmates' tears for lost Matt

Matt Barclay
Matt Barclay Cade Mooney

MATT Barclay's classmates sobbed uncontrollably, arms wrapped tightly around each other in united support, as news broke his body had been recovered.

The 14-year-old was competing at the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships on the Gold Coast yesterday when he was knocked off his board in rough surf. His body was found about 9.30am today.

Siena Catholic College, where Matt was a Year 10 student, held a prayer assembly this morning to help students deal with their grief.

"This morning we've had a whole gathering of students for a liturgy," school principal Graeme Hight said.

"Our counsellor spoke to the students about how to handle how they're feeling in terms of grief and loss, because they're young adolescents, many of them might not have experienced this in their lives."

Maroochydore Surf Lifesaving Club president Tim Ryan, speaking from the Gold Coast, said Matt's club mates had been devastated by the tragedy.

"We are all just staying together,'' Mr Ryan told the Daily.

"We are dealing with many upset children and their parents.''

''All our hearts go out to Matthew and Matthew's family who are such a major part of our community,'' Mr Ryan told reporters on the Gold Coast.

He said 120 members of the club's touring team were at Kurrawa.

''We thank all our buddies in Surf Life Saving Australia who searched tirelessly for our mate,'' he said.

He said that included volunteer surf life savers, emergency services staff and police.

In a statement just after 12.30pm, police said they had positively identified the body of a 14-year-old male who went missing atKurrawaBeachyesterday afternoon as that of Matthew Barclay.

"Matthew had been competing in a board race when he was knocked from his board and failed to surface around 4pm.

"An aerial, ground and water search involving police and Surf Life Saving and the Westpac helicopter began at first light this morning.

"The body was located approximately 1.5 kilometres north of where he was competing.

"Police will prepare a report for the Coroner.

"The family has also requested privacy at this difficult time.''

At Siena, Mr Hight said classes would run as normal today.

"Normality is important to some students, that's how they handle this sort of thing and also for the students who didn't particularly know Matt very well," he said.

The Gold Coast Bulletin reported that Matt's body was found offshore from Northcliffe Surf Club just before 9.30am and was transferred to a water police boat.

Police and lifesavers rushed to the scene while Matt's devastated parents were also on the beach.

News of the discovery broke as Siena Catholic College students were this morning holding a special assembly.

Students broke down in tears as they gathered to mourn the tragedy.

Premier Campbell Newman has told reporters he would be conveying his condolences to Matthew's family.

This morning three rescue choppers, more than 200 lifesavers and over 30 inflatable boats and jet skis joined the search effort.

Competition has been cancelled for the day and there are already calls for future events not to be held at Kurrawa.

The CEO of Surf Life Saving Australia Brett Williamson has today said Kurrawa might be reviewed as too dangerous to hold large events

The State Government said it was also looking into the matter

Matt is feared to have drowned in the same location and at the event that claimed the life of Saxon Bird in 2010.

The Siena Catholic College student, an under-15 competitor at the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships, was reported missing in the water about 3.45pm yesterday.

The 14-year-old member of the Maroochydore Surf Life Saving Club was competing in a board event when he was knocked off into rough surf at Kurrawa.

Matt was last spotted at the back of the breakers by race officials.

Using 30 inflatable rescue craft and two helicopters, police conducted a massive search spanning several kilometres.

A beachgoer said hundreds of people wearing pink rash shirts were in the water searching for the boy, many of them using jet skis, boards and boats.

Coloured dye was released in the surf where the missing teenager was last seen in order to track the current.

Matt's trademark board, which had coloured Southern Cross stars, was recovered.

The search was called off about 6.40pm but was continued this morning at first light with water police joining the efforts.

More than 200 lifesavers, three rescue helicopters and 30 inflatable boats and jet skis are expected to join the search.

Inspector Geoff Palmer from Gold Coast police said the outlook was grim.

"At this time I would say we have grave fears for the safety of the young man," he said.

"We are continuing to search. It will resume in the morning if that is necessary.

"All I can say is everything is being done that could be done."

Matt was wearing a fluorescent lycra singlet, compulsory for the first time this year following the Saxon Bird tragedy.

Surf Life Saving Australia CEO Brent Williamson said he was devastated.

"Our thoughts and prayers are obviously with the family and the broader surf life saving membership," he said.

Mr Williamson said it was his worst nightmare.

He said all details surrounding Matt's disappearance were being studied.

"There are various reports coming in; all that will be collated and reviewed in due course," he said.

"Certainly the wind was up, hence the ongoing discussions about possibly relocating or modifying some of the events, particularly the surfboats."

He said the swell through the day fluctuated between point eight of a metre to just over one metre.

"It doesn't look bigger (than when Saxon Bird died in 2010) but certainly the information that we were looking at on a regular, ongoing basis was that surf conditions were not large.

A number of events had been cancelled or shifted earlier in the day, including the women's double ski.

Mr Bird's was the second death at Kurrawa during the Australian titles.

Fifteen-year-old Robert Gatenby drowned in cyclonic conditions during the 1996 event.

Yesterday was the first day of official events for the 2012 carnival, which ends on Sunday.

Topics:  matt barclay missing boy police surf life saving


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