A 25-year-old who died after being pulled, unconscious, from the ocean at Merewether this week is being remembered by family as an honest young man with the world at his feet.
Michael Russell was swimming at Burwood Beach about 2.30pm on Tuesday when he and another swimmer - a 25-year-old woman - ran into trouble.
The woman made it safely to shore, but Mr Russell could not be revived after he was pulled onto a rock shelf by a hang glider pilot who made an impromptu landing to help.
A Go Fund Me page has been set up to assist Mr Russell's devastated family with funeral costs.
Chris Russell said his younger brother was a lifelong Glendale resident who was working two jobs and loved riding motorbikes and gardening.
"[Michael] had quite the green thumb, always arranging the plants at Mum's house," Chris told the Newcastle Herald.
"He could best be described as a young man with the world at his feet and always spoke the truth."
Lachlan Harman was hang gliding above the coastline on Tuesday afternoon when someone on the ground got his attention and pointed out the emergency that was unfolding below him.
"I landed and ran to the rock shelf and jumped in, seeing the patient disappear under the water," he told the Herald on Wednesday, while at home nursing a leg injury from the rescue effort.
"He was unconscious, so I tried to protect him while getting dragged across the rock shelf, in the process [I] twisted my knee in a hole.
"We made our resuscitation efforts as more help continued to arrive."
Members of the public got their hands on a defibrillator and were performing "effective compressions" on Mr Russell when paramedics arrived, the NSW Ambulance service said, but he could not be saved.
The organiser of the Go Fund Me page wrote that Mr Russell's family and friends were "in immense grief and shock".
She described him as a "proud Aboriginal man" and a "caring friend to all, a brother, a son and uncle".
"We all will miss his presence in our community within our lives," she wrote.
"His family and friends would all love to give him the send-off he deserves and any help would be appreciated."
Police will prepare a report for the coroner.
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