MELBOURNE • A father-and-son life-saving team drowned while trying to save a tourist swept out to sea near one of Australia's most famous sights off the south coast, officials said yesterday.
Mr Ross Powell, 71, and his son Andrew, 32, died on Sunday after their life-saving boat overturned in the surf during the rescue of a 30-year-old man near the Twelve Apostles, a series of massive limestone stacks situated off the Victoria state coast.
The tourist, whose name and nationality have not been released, had been wading at the mouth of a river when he got into trouble.
He was winched from the water alongside a third lifesaver from the boat, who was seriously injured, by a rescue helicopter and taken to hospital, Victoria police said.
The bodies of the Powells were found in the water shortly after.
The tragedy has rocked the small tourist town of Port Campbell, where the two men came from, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison leading the tributes.
"Surf lifesavers are selfless & brave. We thank them all for their service & extend our deepest sympathies to Ross & Andrew's family & friends," Mr Morrison tweeted yesterday.
Surf Lifesaving Victoria president Paul James hailed the pair as heroes, and said the conditions had been rough and "not the place to be swimming". "It's just terrible, it's heartbreaking," he said of the death of the experienced volunteer lifesavers, who are dairy farmers.
Ms Amber Griffiths, the partner of the younger Mr Powell and who local media reported is pregnant with their second child, wrote on Facebook: "Today we lost two of the most beautiful people to ever exist - always putting others first. The love of my life, light of my life, father of my baby girl. My heart is broken."
Australia's beaches are among its biggest tourist draws, but they can have strong rips and tides. Swimmers are advised to keep between areas bounded by flags and patrolled by lifesavers.
The Twelve Apostles are giant rock stacks in the Southern Ocean which began forming millions of years ago when erosion gradually whittled away the limestone cliffs of Port Campbell. Despite their name, only eight are now left standing.