Teen ironman dies at titles

19-year-old Saxon Bird was rushed to hospital after he was hit in the head by his ski in what appears to be a freak accident.
19-year-old Saxon Bird was rushed to hospital after he was hit in the head by his ski in what appears to be a freak accident. Contributed

A 19-YEAR-OLD national title holding surf life saver has died after being hit by his own ski while competing in rough conditions off the Gold Coast.

Paramedics attempted to resuscitate Australian Surf Life Saving Championships competitor Saxon Bird on Kurrawa Beach and continued CPR while he was transported to Gold Coast Hospital by ambulance.

But he died in hospital on Friday afternoon, officials said.

The teenager's surf ski washed onto the beach around 11.30am (AEST) on Friday during the under-19 ironman event.

After an air and sea search of a one kilometre section of the beach Bird was located by a fellow life saver less than an hour later.

The championships has been suspended and a decision will be made by Saturday morning on whether they continue.

A strong rip is running along the water's edge about 10 metres out from the sand, with waves between 1.5 and two metres.

Organisers deemed conditions at Kurrawa safe enough to go ahead with the event on Friday, despite two people being injured in rough conditions at the surf carnival this week.

At 3pm, Surf Life Saving Australia held a press conference to confirm the tragic death.

"The Surf Life Saving community is grieving the loss of one it’s rising stars who started with the Association as an eight year old nipper.

"The Surf Life Saving community is deeply affected and our thoughts are with the family, friends and club mates."

Bird was a member of the NSW surf life saving high performance team and has taken a number of national titles over the past four years.

Echoes of the past

Robert Gatenby, 15, a member of Kurrawa’s under-18 boat crew, drowned at the 1996 nationals at the same beach, as Cyclone Beti ravaged the Queensland coast.

For Sunshine Coast competitor Darren Mercer it was the worst kind of deja vu imaginable.

The multiple Australian ironman champion was on the starting line for the open ironman at the 1996 national titles, also at Kurrawa, when word spread that a Gold Coast teenager had passed away following a mishap competing in a surfboat event.  

“I was on the line when Robert Gatenby died, and they cancelled the rest of the day,” Mercer said.

“Obviously the conditions we’re copping here are pretty severe and it’s an absolute tragedy, but we’re all still in the dark as to what’s happening.

“It’s just one of those things. All surf lifesavers are capable of assessing whether they are capable of competing in."

Read the latest on Cyclone Ului

Do you think they should have been competing? Leave your thoughts below.

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