[Updated July 21, 8:00am] Hopes are fading for 19-year-old Irish surfer Stuart Butler, who disappeared in heavy swells off Cape Byron on Saturday. Mr Butler remains missing nearly 48 hours later, despite widespread searches for him, and police fear he has drowned.
Two other men were rescued in the same incident on Saturday and several other surfers were rescued yesterday.
A multi-agency search including Surf Life Saving NSW, Brunswick Volunteer Rescue Association and planes from Australian Search and Rescue had to be abandoned yesterday owing to bad weather and high seas.
Searching is set to commence again this morning but police say they are moving into ‘recovery mode’.
Nick Zammit from Brunswick Valley Rescue told Echonetaily, ‘Yesterday we did a few vertical drops down the cliff faces that were hidden from view from sea and air – to no avail.’
‘Today police plan to bring in some divers, weather permitting, and we’re doing scouts up and down Main Beach, Belongil and Brunswick Heads beaches,’ he added.
Mr Zammit confirmed that at this stage searchers were looking for a body.
Surf Life Saving NSW’s Jimmy Keough told local media conditions were ‘treacherous’ and would need to improve before his volunteer searchers could go back out in the water.
He also warned other surfers not to risk the heavy weather, saying several other rescues have had to be performed in the same area over the weekend.
Mr Keough said nothing more could have been done to save the missing man as police and life savers were on the scene ‘within ten minutes of the original call’.
‘Yesterday we [covered] a large search area extending to the north and we had the assistance of aerial assets… including one fixed wing aircraft and three helicopters, so we covered a large amount of area,’ he told ABC radio this morning.
But he added that with weather continuing to be poor, little hope was held for finding the man alive.
‘We’re seeing a bit of an improvement today… and our assets will be back on the water,’ Mr Keough said.
[Original report] The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter, police, volunteer rescuers and ambulance paramedics were called to the site around 10.45am Saturday morning (July 19) after the three surfers were swept around the point from Byron Bay.
Volunteer Rescue Association members and officers attached to Byron Bay Police Station commenced a search and rescue effort for the missing men.
According to an onlooker, three surfers were trapped on the rocks below the lighthouse.
‘One has clamboured onto rocks and one has swept around the point,’ she told Echonetdaily on Saturday.
A NSW Ambulance spokesperson said paramedics had been called to Tallow Beach Access Road, near where the three surfers were in difficulty.
Police said a 26-year-old man was assisted from the water and did not suffer any injuries.
‘A short time later, a 20-year-old man was located on rocks and was assisted from the area by rescuers. He was assessed by ambulance paramedics and had sustained only minor injuries,’ the police spokesperson said.