22 Jan 2011

Fatal sandbank incident

10:23 am on 22 January 2011

A man has drowned after dozens of people were swept out to sea near the city of Woollongong in New South Wales. Two others are seriously ill.

Large waves swept up to 50 people out to sea about 4pm (AEDT) on Friday.

The ABC reports the incident sparked a frantic rescue effort by lifesavers, ambulance and other emergency personnel.

Surf lifesavers initially thought a sandbank had collapsed.

Chief Inspector Mark Lavers says everyone was swimming between the flags.

"These people did the right thing," he told the ABC.

"It's just unfortunate. It was a bit of a freak wave, or a number of waves, that seems to have caused the incident."