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14-year-old dies during surf event

A 14-year-old surf lifesaver has died during the Australian championships, the second competitor in two years to drown during the event and at the same beach.

Search teams recovered the body of Matthew Barclay, a member of the Maroochydore club on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane.

Matthew, who disappeared on Wednesday afternoon during an under-15 board race, won two gold medals in the Queensland state junior titles two weeks ago and also won last year's prestigious junior Coolangatta Gold event.

All competition at the five-day championships, which were scheduled to end on Sunday, was halted following his disappearance. But officials later announced the event would resume on Friday at North Kirra beach, about nine miles further south along the Pacific Ocean.

It was the third death on Kurrawa beach during the championships since 1996.

In March 2010, 19-year-old Saxon Bird died during the nationals after being hit by a stray surf ski. In 1996, Robert Gatenby, a 15-year-old member of Kurrawa's under-18 surf boat crew, drowned at the championships as a cyclone was building on the Queensland coast.

Chris Branson, a lawyer for Mr Bird's family, said surf lifesaving officials must stop using Kurrawa beach for national competitions.

"They've learned nothing from Saxon Bird's death, they've learned nothing from Robert Gatenby's death," he said. "It should not be held at Kurrawa at all. Ever, ever, ever."

Surf Life Saving Australia chief executive Brett Williamson said surf conditions were nothing like what was seen when Mr Bird died.

"The size of the swell during the day was fluctuating between 0.8 of a metre (about 3ft), and just over one metre," he said. "Certainly the information we were looking at, regularly on an ongoing basis, were that the surf conditions were not large."


From Belfast Telegraph