The tragic death of Christine Armstrong who was taken by a shark as she swam between Tathra Beach and Tathra Wharf on Thursday, April 3 will affect Surf Life Saving Clubs around Australia, president of the Pambula Surf Life Saving Club, Don Hay said.
Speaking to the News Weekly, Mr Hay paid tribute to Christine Armstrong’s work as a surf life saver.
Mrs Armstrong was a member long-term member of the Tathra Surf Life Saving Club. A statement issued by her family described the Tathra Surf Lifesaving Club trainer as someone who loved to swim and an experienced and committed member of the surf club.
Mrs Armstrong and her husband Rob had worked with in conjunction with other local Surf Life Saving Clubs and Mr Hay said: “The tragic accident that happened to Chris will come as a huge shock to not only our club but every Surf Life Saving Club in Australia. You never expect this to happen.”
Mr Hay said she would be “very, very sadly missed by everyone”.
“Chris has a long association of teaching and patrolling which flowed over to clubs along the coast,” Mr Hay said. “Chris and Rob had a very good relationship at trainer and assessor level with the Pambula Surf Life Saving Club and worked very closely together. This comes as a really big shock.”
Far South Coast Surf Life Saving Association duty officer Andrew Edmunds said that he had received phone calls from Surf Life Saving Club members "up and down the state" who were all deeply shocked, offering their condolences and help.
Mr Edumds said: "It's been a shocking and unexpected event that has affected the family, Tathra Surf Life Saving Club and the Tathra community. Our hearts go out to the family."
He said: "It's difficult when you are searching for one of your own members."
Speaking from the Tathra Surf Life Saving Club, Mr Edmunds said that those involved have been offered counselling and added that the Salvation Army chaplains from Bega and Canberra and the SES chaplain from Eden had been fantastic.
He said that police divers were in the water and were being supported by a number of surf life saving craft.
Mr Edmunds was keen to point out that such an attack was extremely rare. "In the last three years there has been no shark alarms at Tathra. We believe this is the first reported attack at Tathra. There has been a lot of false reporting of people seeing sharks but no patrols have seen sharks. This is a beautiful part of the world and this was a random, isolated tragedy."
He went on to thank the many members of the Tathra community who have provided assistance, Merimbula Marine Rescue, Eden Water Police and members of Tathra, Pambula, Bermagui and Narooma Surf Life Saving Clubs for their help.
The beach is not expected to open this weekend.