Surf lifesaver, 14, dies during competition

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GOLD COAST, Australia (AP)

A 14-year-old surf lifesaver has died during the Australian championships, the second competitor in three years to drown during the event at the same beach on the tourist strip.


Remembering the many athletes sports lost way too soon.

Search teams on Thursday recovered the body of Matthew Barclay, a member of the Maroochydore club on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane.

Barclay, who disappeared on Wednesday afternoon during an under-15 board race, won two gold medals in the Queensland state junior titles two weeks ago and also won last year’s prestigious junior Coolangatta Gold event.

All competition at the five-day championships, which were scheduled to end Sunday, was halted following Barclay’s disappearance.

It’s the third death on Kurrawa beach during the championships since 1996.

In March 2010, 19-year-old Saxon Bird died during the nationals. An inquest ruled that Bird had drowned after being hit by a stray surf ski.

In 1996, Robert Gatenby, a 15-year-old member of Kurrawa’s under-18 surf boat crew, drowned at the championships as a cyclone was building on the Queensland coast.

On Thursday, the lawyer for Bird’s family called for a royal commission into the running of the national surf lifesaving championships.

Chris Branson said surf lifesaving officials must stop using Kurrawa beach for national competitions.

“They’ve learned nothing from Saxon Bird’s death, they’ve learned nothing from Robert Gatenby’s death,” he said. “It should not be held at Kurrawa at all. Ever, ever, ever.”

Surf Life Saving Australia chief executive Brett Williamson said surf conditions on Wednesday were nothing like what was seen when Bird died.

“The size of the swell during the day was fluctuating between 0.8 of a meter (about three feet), and just over one meter,” he said. “Certainly the information we were looking at, regularly on an ongoing basis, were that the surf conditions were not large.”


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