Port Kembla fishermen deaths: ‘Idiots’ hit by waves at Hill 60


Vision has emerged of “idiots” fishing in the same spot where three men were killed in the NSW Illawarra region on the weekend.

Onlookers can be heard in the video, filmed at Port Kembla’s Hill 60 on Sunday, yelling at more than a dozen people to “hurry up” and get off the rocks as ferocious waves surge towards them.

Half of those fishing are washed into rocks as they try to scramble out of the path of the surf.

“Don’t worry about the fish,” one man can be heard saying, as the other half of the group run from a second large wave.

The video, shared to a local fishing group on Facebook with more than 5700 members, was captioned: “After few days of several people losing their lives more IDIOTS at the exact same spot risking their lives. IF BIG SWELL STAY OFF THE LEDGES! Hit the harbour or lakes or rivers or even the fish market! PLZ repost let’s get the message out there!”

The notorious and favoured fishing spot, south of Sydney, became a scene of horror on Friday night when at least five people were swept off the ledge. Three of them died.

“It’s a large outcrop of rock platform and unfortunately, every now and then, we do have instances where large waves do encroach upon the platform,” Acting Superintendent Gordon Dunlop said on Saturday.

“One of those waves was extremely large and took a number of people out.”

Relatives identified two of the victims, aged 45 and 49 from Green Valley, while police identified the third victim, a 69-year-old from Campsie, whose car was left in the car park.

Their bodies were retrieved from the ocean after a rapid response from emergency services.

Acting Supt Dunlop said the victims were “total strangers” who had all come to enjoy the fishing at the “sought after” scenic spot.

“A lot of people do attend here and not all of them are familiar with the location,” he said.

Members of a forum on Fishraider described Hill 60 as the “most dangerous fishing spot”.

“It’s better to go there in daytime especially (if) it is your first time,” one member wrote.

“It can be very dangerous there at times especially after dark. Always watch the waves.”

Acting Supt Dunlop said surf warnings were in place at the time and people are reminded “quite frequently” of the dangers.

“People do get warnings on quite a regular basis in regards to making sure they’re wearing the appropriate lifesaving devices,” he said.

“Obviously with the angel rings being installed on the shoreline, it’s been identified as an area that needs increased safety. The local rescue operations and Surf Life Saving are all aware of the dangers of fishing off rocks and recovering people around these areas.

“A warning to everybody: The location that people do fish in, on these outcrops where it is very close to the sea and on a point or a headland, unfortunately the weather does change sometimes and the waves can become quite dangerous for those on the surface of the rocks.”

Asked whether he thought it would be the last time they would attend such a deadly scene, Acting Supt Dunlop replied: “No, I don’t.”

“We will be here,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s just a fact of life that people enjoy something which has some dangers to it.”

RELATED: Unacceptable number of drownings last summer

Surf Life Saving NSW director Joel Wiseman said such tragedies “are sadly too familiar” for volunteer lifesavers and lifeguards, and the three deaths were “horrendous”.

“Sadly this location has seen numerous incidents and drownings over the years,” he said in a statement on Saturday.

On Sunday, SLSNSW had to pull a man from the water at the Hill 60 rock platform.

He was given oxygen on shore and a rescue helicopter was dispatched, Marine Rescue NSW said.

According to a toll compiled by Royal Life Saving Australia, there have been 57 drownings so far this summer including 18 in NSW.

Eight of the state’s deaths have been coastal along with nine inland at rivers, lakes and dams.

General manager of Surf Life Saving Australia, Shane Daw, put the surge in fatalities down to large surf and a failure to take enough care.

“There’s a bit of complacency about understanding where we’re going and people not taking safety precautions about swimming between the flags, or not wearing a life jacket and putting themselves in risky situations,” he told ABC’s Weekend Breakfast.

He asked people heading to the waterways to heed the advice of authorities including surf warnings from the Bureau of Meteorology and the State Emergency Service.

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