A Hunter family is in mourning after 17-year-old Belmont High School student James Hayman drowned Wednesday in rough surf at Diamond Beach.
The Hayman family of Tingira Heights were said to be holidaying near Halliday Point on the state's Lower North Coast when the tragedy occurred. Emergency services arrived on the scene around 1pm after reports a swimmer was struggling in the water.
James's father Peter rushed into the water to try to help the teenager, but he then also found himself in trouble. Mr Hayman was later rushed to hospital, suffering from water inhalation.
Manning-Great Lakes Police said first responders brought James from the water and performed CPR until NSW Ambulance paramedics took over treatment, but sadly he could not be saved and died at the scene. A report will be prepared for the coroner, police said.
Several family members were too distraught to speak about what happened to their young relative, but James' grandfather Paul Hayman told The Herald he was in complete shock.
"I'm in total disbelief," he said. "It still hasn't fully sunk in.
"They were up there having a little bit of a holiday. They were supposed to go to Queensland but the borders are closed.
"It was supposed to be a last family holiday before James goes into Year 12.
He described James as a "good kid".
"He got along well with everyone," Mr Hayman said. "He was quiet but was a bit more outgoing around his friends. He had some good close friends.
"He liked doing things on the computer. He was interested in cooking. He had aspirations to become a chef.
Mr Hayman said James's friends got together on Thursday and reminisced about all the fun times they had with their mate.
The Argenton grandfather said on Friday morning he had not seen James's parents yet as Peter was recovering from the incident.
"Peter swallowed a lot of water trying to save him," Mr Hayman said.
Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steven Pearce described the loss as a "heartbreaking incident".
"Our thoughts are with the boy's family at this time," Mr Pearce said. "Please, if you're heading to the beach these school holidays or this coming long weekend, swim at a patrolled location and always swim between the red and yellow flags."
Surf lifesavers pleaded with holidaymakers stay safe on the state's beaches this season after reports eight people have drowned on the NSW coast, or in the ocean, since July 1.
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