This dangerous beach won’t be closed
LIFEBUOYS and signage will be installed permanently on Fingal Headland after the third drowning at the notoriously treacherous beach in two years.
Kingscliff man Dylan Carpenter had surfed Fingal beach hundreds of times, but on Sunday he lost his bodyboard and was knocked unconscious while trying to clamber up the rocky headland to safety.
A major land, air and ocean search was launched about 11.30am.
The 20-year-old was found almost two hours later and despite the work of paramedics and lifesavers, he could not be revived.
The beach, which is classified as "dangerous", is only patrolled on weekends, and only in certain areas.
Fingal Rovers Surf Lifesaving Club has 30 members who patrol and often use neighbouring Gold Coast clubs to bolster numbers.
On Sunday, volunteers from Mermaid Beach Surf Lifesaving Club were patrolling at Fingal, an arrangement the clubs have had in place for some time.
Tweed MP Geoff Provest said there had been calls for the beach to be closed, but ruled out taking such drastic steps.
"You don't want to proliferate the area with too many signs, or fences," he said, adding that closing the beach would not necessarily deter people from using the area.
"We're working on Angel Rings (lifebuoys) for the headland and warning signage ... which we hope to have as a permanent fixture by December."
Surf Life Saving Far North Coast duty officer Jimmy Keough said the currents working around the headland were "very unpredictable".
He said Fingal beach was patrolled, but the open beach beyond the headland, known as "Dreamtime" beach, was not.
"It is a very well known surf location," he said.
"We conducted a risk assessment two to three years ago and did flag the beach as dangerous.
"It's an open, exposed beach and the headland does cop a lot of open swell ... with lots of white water and movement."
He said there were no plans to increase patrols in the area, apart from during summer and Easter school holidays when paid council lifeguards were hired.
When Dylan went missing there was a high, incoming tide and swells were up to 2m high.
Fingal Rovers Surf Lifesaving Club did not respond to requests for comment, but indicated a public relations officer would release a statement in the coming days.
The small club has struggled to grow its membership over the years, but recently completed renovations and hosted an open day to recruit members.
Last March, Ryan Martin, 30, tragically died trying to rescue 10-year-old Rihanna Milabo from rough conditions near the headland.
Six months earlier, 26-year-old Aggie Auelua drowned trying to save a nine-year-old boy.
Fingal local Robert Budd said part of the allure of the headland and the Dreamtime beach was its remoteness.
He agreed that the beach should not be closed but said while locals knew it was dangerous, tourists visiting the area didn't.
"It is often the visitors who get in trouble, but this time it was a local, who had surfed here many times," he said.
Tweed Shire Councillors did not respond yesterday.
Community needs to support surf club
LIFESAVERS could patrol the beach black spot where bodyboarder Dylan Carpenter died if the local surf life saving club's membership increases.
But the club's administrator says it wouldn't have changed the fateful outcome.
Michael Crawley, who has been in charge of Fingal Rovers Surf Life Saving Club since it was placed under administration earlier this year due to compliance issues, financial problems and infighting, told the Gold Coast Bulletin the headland had now tragically claimed the lives of three people in as many years.
He said the Fingal Head Lighthouse area was a popular spot for beachgoers but not without its risks.
"The minute it becomes dangerous, if you swim there you're likely to have a problem," Mr Crawley said. "Be you a good swimmer, a bad swimmer, or otherwise."
Mr Crawley said he didn't believe having additional patrolling members on the beach on Sunday could have saved Mr Carpenter due to the nature of the incident.
"They are not related issues," he said in relation to the lack of club volunteers.
"(Our) obligation is within the flags and 10 metres outside of the flags."
On Sunday, members from Mermaid Beach surf club were patrolling Fingal Head beach when the incident occurred and they assisted in the search and rescue.
"We have a shrunken roster compared to some beaches but we are bigger than others," Mr Crawley said.
Mr Crawley told the Gold Coast Bulletin the club was "actively" recruiting members.
"It is a two-year rebuilding program," he said.
Fingal Beach is patrolled by lifesavers on the weekend between the hours of 10am and 2pm.