The devastated mum of a father-of-six who drowned at a NSW beach trying to save his son has urged families to not swim in unsupervised areas.
Father-of-six and Central Coast local Michael Sneddon was with his 10-year-old son, Cody, at Ettalong Beach, about 50 meters offshore, when the pair reportedly got stuck in a rip at about 2.30pm Saturday.
Family members say Mr Sneddon attempted to keep his son above water before beachgoers rescued the father and son on two jet skis. However, Mr Sneddon was unable to be revived by Maritime Services and paramedics.
Mr Sneddon’s mum, Lilian Sneddon-Camilleri said her son was a “caring father” and “loved his son and his girls”.
The shattered mum said she last spoke to Mr Sneddon on Friday to wish him a happy New Years, and was still in shock after hearing the news.
“Michael was a hero to me. He was always helping people and he was a good kid at school,” she said.
In light of the tragic accident, Ms Camillieri urged families not to swim at unsupervised beaches such as Ettalong Beach.
On Saturday, lifesavers from the nearby Ocean Beach and Umina Beach were deployed to Ettalong in order to assist with the rescue which had been initiated by bystanders.
“He was a good son, and I loved him. I just want other parents to learn from this. Don’t swim where there’s no supervision, and have safety things, like life jackets, on you,” she said.
“I don’t want other people to go through this.”
Mr Sneddon’s youngest brother, Antonio Sneddon said he was beloved by his large family, including his five siblings.
He said his family had been told Mr Sneddon and Cody had been standing on a sand barge when it collapsed, plunging both of them into the water.
“It seems that Cody went in first and then Michael went in to save him,” Antonio said.
“We’re gathering that Cody was holding onto his dad and telling him to ‘stay up,’ but by the time they got Cody, unfortunately Michael went under and the rips got him.”
A statement from the family thanked emergency services who rushed to the scene, and for the bystanders at the beach who saved Cody.
“He was a great brother, and for his Mum and Dad he was a great son. For his own children he was a great father,” it read.
“He is loved by his family and his business colleagues.
“The Sneddon family would like to say thank you to everyone who was first on the scene and thank you for saving Michael’s son.”
Antonio said the family would extend an invite to representatives from NSW Ambulance or LifeSaving NSW to attend his brother’s funeral for their help on the day.
Witnesses at Ettalong Beach on Saturday said they originally thought it was a different type of emergency when they started hearing the screams out in the surf.
“They were screaming at us from the water … I’m thinking there’s a shark in the water,” one said.
The father’s death marks a solemn 10 days for The Central Coast region, after two men drowned on Christmas Day – one at Umina Beach, and a man in his 80s at Copacabana beach.
Surf Lifesaving NSW have confirmed a total of nine deaths along the coast this summer alone.
CEO Steve Pearce said the incident was “devastating news” for the man’s family and the community at large following the two recent deaths.
“They need time to reflect on these events and grieve the loss of loved ones. We ask the media to give them privacy during this tragic time,” Mr Pearce said.
Hundreds of local residents took to social media to share their condolences with the family and those involved with the rescue attempt.
NSW Surf Life Saving manager Oliver Munson said surf life savers were looking to reinforce the message of staying between the red and yellow flags to avoid anymore of these “tragic incidents” happening.
“The local Central Coast community is going to be really affected by these drownings, particularly those involved in the rescue and the resuscitation attempts,” Mr Munson said.
“It’s really about emphasising the importance of making sure that you are going to one of these patrolled locations, staying safe between the flags whether you are paddling, swimming or bodyboarding.
“We are seeing all these fatalities and they are happening at non-patrolled locations or outside of patrolling hours.”