Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland sea rescue hero murdered in Australia

A man has been charged with murder in Australia after a Co Antrim man was killed in an alleged deliberate hit and run using a van.

Ballycastle native John Foss (60) was a dedicated sea rescue volunteer who helped four people caught in rough seas just an hour before he died.

The man driving the van has been arrested and charged, with police in the state of New South Wales saying the two men knew each other and there was some "animosity" between the pair.

Mr Foss was riding his motorised bicycle on Coolamon Scenic Drive in Mullumbimby in the far north of the state last week when he was hit from behind by a white van, police said.

The 53-year-old driver of the Toyota Hiace vehicle allegedly failed to stop.

A member of the emergency services found Mr Foss, who died later in Mullumbimby Hospital.

James Andrew Mitchell (53), of Nashua, has been charged with murder and dangerous driving occasioning death.

"We are aware that both parties knew each other prior to the incident and apparently there was some animosity between them," a police spokesman said.

Tributes have poured in from people in his adopted home.

Mr Foss had been a volunteer with Marine Rescue NSW at Brunswick Heads for three years and was involved in a rescue at Brunswick River bar shortly before his death, his team leader Owen Danvers said.

"A boat capsized crossing the bar, four people were tipped into the water," Mr Danvers said.

"They were washing up on the beach.

"Mr Foss got in a boat to rescue them, but they washed up on shore and he was in a team that helped them as they came out of the water.

"He went home, got changed, jumped on his bike and was heading into Mullumbimby when the tragedy happened."

Mr Danvers said Mr Foss gave much of his time to others.

"He was very much involved in the local community. He'll be sadly missed by all members of Marine Rescue Brunswick - he filled a fairly big hole in our organisation."

Mr Foss had developed his own business, called Fosscati, making custom motorised bikes, which was his main passion besides rescue work.

Former Sotheby's auctioneer Robert Bleakley knew Mr Foss better than most, both overseas and in Australia, having first met him 28 years ago.

"He was an amazing guy, as demonstrated by the way he's endeared himself to so many people since he's lived on the Northern Rivers," he said.

Mitchell did not appear in Lismore Local Court on Thursday to answer the charge of murder. No plea was entered and bail was refused.

Funeral arrangements for Mr Foss have yet to be announced.

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