More warnings where ‘hero’ father drowned

A no swimming sign has been installed near a beach north of Timaru after a man drowned earlier...
A no swimming sign has been installed near a beach north of Timaru after a man drowned earlier this year. PHOTO: SHELLEY INON
People will now be warned to keep out of the water at a beach north of Timaru following the death of a father of three who drowned while rescuing his son earlier this year.

Richard Walsh died while rescuing his son who had been carried out to sea by a wave while playing in Beach Rd near Seadown on January 30.

The 58-year-old ran into the sea and threw his son towards the shore where other people were able to help him climb out of the water.

Mr Walsh, who lived at Levels Valley near Pleasant Point, was carried back out to sea by the current.

Coroner Sue Johnson released her findings into his death this week.

On the day, Mr Walsh was at the beach with his wife and two of their children to meet another family.

While playing at the edge of the water with a group of children, his son was knocked over and carried into the water by what was described as a ‘‘rogue wave’’.

Mr Walsh immediately ran into the surf and grabbed his son, protecting him from the force of the wave.

A witness said a massive wave then came up from behind and hit the pair before Mr Walsh threw his son towards the shore, where those on the beach helped get him out of the water.

Mr Walsh was unable to get back to shore and would go under and ‘‘pop back up’’ when hit by a wave.

As emergency services were being called, Mr Walsh was last seen about 50m from shore, raising his hand.

Because of the conditions, an attempted water rescue, even with ropes, was deemed unwise.

A coastguard boat was also unable to be used as it was too dangerous for the boat to get closer to the shore where Mr Walsh was.

His body was recovered about 1.5km from Beach Rd.

Ms Johnson ruled the death accidental.

In her report she said, ‘‘Richard died a hero, but I am aware that this will not take away his family’s grief and sorrow. I extend my sincere condolences to them for their loss.’’

On the day Mr Walsh died there were no signs at the beach advising about the dangers of swimming or paddling.

Statements by residents showed there used to be a sign, but it was vandalised and pulled down.

The Timaru District Council had now replaced the sign.

‘‘It is heartening to know that Timaru District Council has replaced the no swimming sign.

‘‘However, I recommend to Timaru District Council that it also erects signs at the beach at Beach Rd, Seadown, advising people to keep out of the water as there are strong currents.

‘‘This is because Mr Walsh was rescuing his son who had been carried out to sea by a wave while playing at the edge of the sea.’’

The council has agreed to install more signs in the area which Ms Johnson said might reduce the chances of future deaths occurring in circumstances similar to those in which Mr Walsh died.

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