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Tributes to 'hero' rescue father

Friends and family have paid tribute to a "hero" father who died after saving his two children from drowning off an Australian beach.

Andrew Priestley, from Market Harborough, Leicestershire, died in hospital after getting into difficulty at Burrill Beach - around 155 miles south of Sydney on Australia's east coast.

In a statement released by the Foreign Office, his family said Mr Priestley was the "most amazing father" and that it was "heartbreakingly impossible" to imagine life without him.

The 44-year-old was on holiday with his family when his two sons Matthew and David got caught in strong currents at the beauty spot.

After entering the water and rescuing the children, it is believed Mr Priestley may have suffered a heart attack.

The statement said: "The family of Andrew are devastated about his death in Australia. He died after saving his children.

"Andrew was the most amazing husband and father that any family could wish for. He adored his family and we adored him.

"The support and messages we have received have been overwhelming and we are thankful for that.

"It is heartbreakingly impossible at this moment to imagine our lives without him.

"We would ask that our privacy is respected at such a sad time."

Australian police said the man's children were uninjured. A report is now being prepared for the coroner.

Today a neighbour who had lived near Mr Priestley for 11 years said he was "in awe of his bravery."

The neighbour, who died not want to be named, said: "He was always smiling, especially happy when playing sports outside the front of his house with his kids.

"I don't think I know a happier couple than Amanda and Andrew. Wish I'd known him better but he was always up for a football or work chat.

He added: "I'm in awe of his bravery. He really is a hero."

Tributes were also paid by sports teams in Market Harborough where Mr Priestley's two sons play.

In a statement on their website, Borough Alliance Football Club said they would hold a minute's silence before their matches today.

The club said: "Andrew Priestley tragically died saving his sons in a swimming accident in Australia. For many years Andrew was a regular figure at the club where his sons Matthew and Daniel played.

"Our thoughts go out to his wife Amanda, the boys and his daughter Amelia."

Meanwhile a statement on Market Harborough RUFC also paid tribute.

Mike Fletcher, Mini and Junior Chairman at the club, said: "All at Market Harborough RUFC wish to express our condolences to the family and friends of Andrew Priestley, father of two of our young players, following the tragic news. We are all shocked and saddened at what has happened.

"Andrew was an ever present parent, supporting his boys in their rugby development at the club. As a community club we will support the family in any way we are able."

A statement from New South Wales Police Force released on Friday said: "Emergency services were called to Burrill Beach just after midday, where they found a man unconscious.

"The 44-year-old was taken to Milton Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

"Officers from Shoalhaven Local Area Command attended and were told the man, a British tourist, got into difficulty after attempting to rescue his two sons who were caught in a rip.

"His sons were not injured."

A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said the family was being offered consular assistance.


From Belfast Telegraph