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Father Dies trying to Save his Children PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Herald Sun   

Editor's Note: This story came out on International Men's Day. Shane O'Neill's bravery has touched the nation and has been an incredible example of the greatest level of sacrifice that epitomises what manhood is all about. We at the Fatherhood Foundation honour him.

A FATHER desperately cried for help before losing his life trying to save his two young sons who had toppled from a wharf on the NSW south coast.

Police said the father, identified as 28-year-old local Kalaru man Shane O'Neill, drowned trying to save his sons after the pram toppled into the sea.
The two boys, aged four years and 15 months, were pronounced dead at Bega Hospital.
Inspector Manny Byrne said the tragedy had devastated his officers who have young families and were the first to perform CPR on 15-month-old Travis and four-year-old Riley.
Inspector Manny Byrne said the seas were "about 2m and fairly choppy".

"The father was deceased when he was retrieved," he said. "Police and ambulance personnel performed CPR on the boys until they arrived at Bega Hospital, there were declared deceased shortly after."

Insp Byrne said a witness who dived in to help was pulled unconscious from the water but revived a short time later.

He was released from Bega Hospital this morning after being treated overnight for minor injuries.

Riley's preschool in Tathra was closed by grief-stricken staff today.

The 28-year-old - who married only recently - was a butcher from the tiny hamlet of Kalaru on the road between Bega and Tathra. Family and friends are rallying around Mr O'Neill's wife Stacey.

"We are just all gutted," long-time friend Steven Meaker said today.

"To lose a family, I couldn't imagine what Stacey is going through. They have been going out for a while but they just built a house and were just starting a family."

Mr O'Neill had played rugby league for Bega for about 10 years but had recently semi-retired to concentrate on being a father.

Colleagues at Kydd's butcher shop in Carp St, Bega, where Mr O'Neill worked for more than a decade, were devastated.

Riley and Travis regularly came in to see their father work and he was enormously popular with customers who began calling in condolences at 6am today.

"He was very, very popular, he was a great worker ... everyone knew Shane," colleague Mick Stafford said.

"The kids always came in."

The man was fishing off the Tathra Wharf and had his baby in the pram, with his other child holding on to it, when the pram tumbled into the water shortly after 8pm.

The panicked father quickly dived five metres to save his children, while another man also fishing nearby jumped into the water to help.

The alarm was raised and Surf Lifesavers, police and paramedics arrived to recover all four people from the freezing waters.

Two Surf Lifesavers dived off the wharf and managed to pull the children out, while the father was taken out by Lifesavers in a rubber duck boat.

His children were taken by road ambulance to the local hospital in a critical condition but were pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

The other man, who was holidaying in the area, was treated by ambulance officers and later taken to hospital.

Mr Wheatley, who helped treat the fisherman at the surf club before paramedics arrived, said the man got cuts and bruises and was stung by blue bottles as he tried to rescue the young family.

"He's fine, in shock. He was in the water for a while. It's freezing and he came across all those waves," Mr Wheatley said.

Mr Wheatley said the fisherman had been holidaying in the area for the past few days and decided to take a last minute fish before going home today and that no one else was on the wharf with them at the time.

No rain had fallen in the area last night so the wharf was not slippery but Mr Wheatley said it got very dark there at night.

The wharf has railings on both sides but not at the front of it, where it is believed the young father was sitting with his children.

Police are investigating how the tragedy occurred and a report is expected to be prepared for the coroner.

- By Gemma Jones, Evelyn Yamine

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