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Community shocked over Tathra wharf accident -

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Community shocked over Tathra wharf accident

Broadcast: 19/11/2008


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: A father and his two sons have died while on a fishing trip in the NSW South

Shane O'Neill died while trying to save his two young sons who had fallen off a wharf into choppy
waters. The incident happened at Tathra near Bega on the NSW coast.

Emma Renwick reports.

EMMA RENWICK, REPORTER: Shane O'Neill did what any father would do. He leapt five metres into rough
seas to rescue his boys.

15-month old Travis was in his pram when his 4-year old brother Riley climbed on to it. They over
balanced and toppled off the Tathra wharf.

SCOTT MEAKER, SURF LIFE SAVER: They all had their shoes and clothes and everything on so in those
sorts of conditions they just really didn't have a chance.

SHAYNE RETTKE, SURF LIFE SAVER: Never been so scared in my life. Jumped in, didn't even realise how
cold the water was.

EMMA RENWICK: Another fishermen who heard frantic cries for help also leapt in to try to save

TONY RETTKE, SURF LIFE SAVER: He risked his life to save others and he could have had a very
different outcome for himself.

EMMA RENWICK: All four were pulled from the water by rescuers from the nearby surf club. They
desperately tried to resuscitate the two boys.

CAMERON RETTKE, SURF LIFE SAVER: You just keep going, you never know what is going to happen. Maybe
something good will happen, he will come back.

EMMA RENWICK: Riley and his baby brother Travis were pronounced dead at Bega hospital. Their father
had been pronounced dead by paramedics at Tathra breech. The fisherman was treated for minor

The O'Neills live near Tathra in the tiny town of Kalaroo and worked in Bega. Shane O'Neill had
worked at the same butchery for 13 years. His boss said he was a popular family man.

In such a small community this accident has had a major impact.

SUP MICHAEL WILLING, NSW POLICE: The people here are well known to each other and the general
circumstances surrounding this tragedy will impact on everyone, including the police and other
emergency services that attended.

EMMA RENWICK: The family was known to the rescuers who tried to save them.

My wife came home, she had dropped the kids off at school, and said that the little fellow was
actually from my young bloke's preschool class, that's when it hit homes. Yeah.

EMMA RENWICK: Locals are now asking the question what could have been done to prevent this tragedy.
There was no life ring at the wharf and the section where the family went off was unfenced.

The tight knit community has expressed its condolences to Mr O'Neill's 24-year old fiancé and
mother of the two boys Stacey Lambert. The couple planned to marry in March.