Grim mission: Police divers prepare to enter the water on Sunday at Hanging Rock Falls near Wadeville, north of Kyogle, to search for missing Queensland teenager Mackenzie Mello. They found his body a short time later.
Grim mission: Police divers prepare to enter the water on Sunday at Hanging Rock Falls near Wadeville, north of Kyogle, to search for missing Queensland teenager Mackenzie Mello. They found his body a short time later. Cathy Adams

Hanging Rock Falls' deadly record

AT LEAST five people have been winched from Hanging Rock Falls, a popular swimming hole north-west of Nimbin that claimed the life of 14-year-old Mackenzie Chase Mello on Saturday.

The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter airlifted them for neck and spinal injuries over the past nine years, according to chief pilot Lynton Beggs.

Mr Beggs said the service had conducted more rescue operations at the falls than at any other swimming hole in the region.

Some of those injuries were related to use of the rope swing, he said.

Mackenzie slipped off a sheer cliff face into the water while trying to access the rope swing at the waterhole. His body was found in seven metres of water on Sunday by police divers.

Mr Beggs said he could not comment on the safety of the swimming hole.

"Our job is to pick up the pieces. We are here to serve the community," he said.

Wadeville resident of 18 years and bereavement councillor Linda Lee said the falls were promoted to tourists but visitors were often not made aware of the dangers of swimming there.

"It seems absolutely appropriate to me that whoever claims jurisdiction over the falls, they should post a warning sign as to the potential dangers. This tragedy was not the first. I hope it will be the last," Ms Lee said.

The land next to the swimming hole is crown reserve and is managed by the Wadeville Reserve Trust.

The waterhole is managed by the NSW Land and Property Authority (LPMA).

A spokesperson for the LPMA said the matter was under investigation.

The Northern Star also spoke to two Byron Bay-based tour bus operators, who said the waterhole was too dangerous a place to take tourists. They also cited distance as another reason they did not visit the falls.

Mackenzie, from Bardon in Queensland, was on a camping trip at Doon Doon, near Uki, with the Waterford Rugby League Football Club's under-14 Demons team when the tragedy occurred.

A Facebook page has been set up in memory of the boy. As of yesterday, more than 800 people had joined it.

In 2003, a Canadian tourist also drowned at the swimming hole.

A report on the boy's death is being prepared for the coroner.


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