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Vigil For Angler Washed Off Port Kembla Rocks


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Vigil for angler washed off Port Kembla rocks


7/07/2009 12:05:00 AM

Candles and a small tribute to the western Sydney fisherman swept off rocks at Port Kembla on Sunday night sat perched on a rock yesterday, opposite the lone life ring intended to keep fishers safe.

The man, who tried in vain to save his friend from the churning sea, was joined by 10 other friends of the man and a Buddhist monk at the scene of the tragedy late yesterday afternoon.

The monk led a blessing and prayed with the group for the body of the 28-year-old Hurlstone Park man, who is feared drowned, to float to the surface.

Ironically, just metres away and tucked out of sight on another rock shelf below, a keen angler tried his luck at the treacherous but popular fishing spot.

The emotional group of friends remained silent, staring out to sea and watching the waves pound the rocks below.

One friend spoke briefly to call for signs banning rock-fishing at the dangerous spot.

"Even if it doesn't stop people fishing here, it would be a warning," he said.

The two men arrived at the popular fishing spot about 4.30pm on Sunday. As the pair were packing up to leave, one of them was swept off the rocks. His friend was unable to help him and phoned triple zero at 9.20pm.

"Police arrived a short time later and they believe they saw a person in the water, but the bad surf meant they could not get to him," Sergeant John Klepczarek said.

"PolAir was called last night and they also did an extensive search, however the conditions made it very difficult."

The search resumed at first light yesterday with assistance from the PolAir police helicopter, Australian Volunteer Coast Guard and Water Police.

But just hours later, the search was scaled back and the family were escorted away from the area by police.

"The Wollongong rescue vessel was involved with the Water Police this morning and helped search east of the breakwall," Port Kembla Coast Guard's deputy commodore John Aldridge said.

"Around 9am we were stood down by police."

PolAir and Water Police were also stood down soon after, but uniformed police continued to scour the rocks and the shore for any trace of the man throughout the day.

Port Kembla was named among the eight most dangerous rock-fishing locations in the state in a 2003 NSW Government Water Safety Taskforce report. Between 1992 and 2000, 74 people lost their lives along the NSW coastline while participating in the dangerous sport.

In March this year, a 71-year-old father from Strathfield drowned while fishing at night at Honeycomb Rocks at Port Kembla.

That man, also from Sydney's south-west, was fishing with his son when he was swept into the ocean.

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