Missing teen Bronson Rhodes. Picture: Facebook
Missing teen Bronson Rhodes. Picture: Facebook

'Big hearted' teen's drowning devastates northern NSW town

TEENAGER Bronson Rhodes, who is missing and presumed drowned in the surf on the NSW mid-north coast, had a huge heart, great sense of humour and loved his rugby league and kicking back with his mates.

Blade Hogan, 20, a friend of Bronson's older brother Bill, paid this heartfelt tribute to the local 14-year-old tonight as the mid-north coast community mourned yet another young lost life to the surf in their region.

"He always seemed to put a smile on anyone's face, lighting up the room with funny comments or remarks. He had a great sense of humour and loved to show it anywhere he went," Mr Rhodes said.

"Bronson was an amazing kid with a great personality and a huge heart. He absolutely loved his NRL but loved just as kicked back with the boys even more, whether it was his mates or his older brother's mates."

The tribute came at the end of a full day of emergency services unsuccessfully scouring the coastline for Bronson's body, after he and two friends were dragged by a rip off Flynn's Beach, near Port Macquarie, about 3.15pm

The community gathering to console each other. Pictures: Nathan Edwards
The community gathering to console each other. Pictures: Nathan Edwards

His body was spotted near rocks late yesterday afternoon but the rescue operation had to be called off due to severe swells, failing light and the proximity of rocks before it could be retrieved. The search will resume again tomorrow.

Yesterday afternoon NSW Surf Lifesavers were able to save two teenagers swimming with Bronson who were also caught in the rip, but they were unable to save him after he became lost on the swell.

Emergency services attended the scene and immediately began a wide-scale search and rescue operation for Bronson using jetskis, boats and helicopters.

The search began again at 7am today with the Mid-North Coast Local Area Command closing Flynn's Beach to the public while emergency services began scouring the southern end of the beach where Bronson's body had last been seen.

Although police confirmed his body had again been located today, it was again unable to be retrieved.

Online comments about the tragedy have suggested the teen was a local who was a seasoned swimmer and surfer at the "safe" patrolled beach.

"He was a regular local body boarder - he was used to the beach that IS patrolled," Brownyn Flemming wrote. "Sometimes you cannot predict what the ocean rips will do."

Flynn's Beach doesn't have a reputation for being a unsafe beach and is patrolled by lifesavers.

"The family have been supported by police chaplaincy who have been in the area overnight," a police spokesperson said.

"They are obviously going through a horrific set of circumstances and we are trying to support them as best we can."

The latest incident comes just 10 days after an 11-year-old ACT boy was sucked out in a rip during choppy conditions at the unpatrolled Lighthouse Beach, five minutes south of Flynn's Beach.

On Sunday, a 14-year-old girl almost drowned at the pool at Whitlam Leisure Centre in Liverpool.

The non-English-speaking teenager had apparently swallowed some water and was coughing by the side of the pool. A witness rang the ambulance after seeing the girl lying next to the pool. She was taken to Liverpool Hospital but was discharged.

A NSW Ambulance spokesman said he was relieved the girl was okay. Police attendance was not required.

The leisure centre declined to comment when contacted by The Daily Telegraph.