Gwydir River tragedy - woman and child drown

Police have recovered the bodies of a 50-year-old woman and an eight-year-old girl who went missing after a boat capsized on the Gwydir River near Bingara yesterday.

Their bodies were found shortly after 5.30 yesterday afternoon after a day-long search, the aftermath of a tragic holiday drama for a group of members of a Sydney surf life-saving club.

The victims were among seven people in a surf boat that overturned in fast-running water 35km downstream of Copeton Dam about 10am.

The two were understood to be associated with the North Narrabeen Surf Life Saving Club in Sydney, which travels to the campgrounds each year to conduct training exercises.

It is believed the child was wearing a life-jacket, but not the woman. The five others made it to the riverbank safely.

The New England North West Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service joined SES volunteers and police in a search of the area.

The victims, who were not related, are understood to have been among a group of about 30 people. 

The fast-flowing waters hampered the search and police divers from Sydney were enroute to the area when the bodies were recovered.

The area is only accessible via four-wheel drive and is about 18km east of Bingara on the Keera Rd.

Officers from the outlying New England police command were called to help their Barwon  colleagues soon after the alarm was raised.

Eight SES volunteers were at the scene along with two SES vehicles and a boat.

Initial reports suggested the incident had occurred on Copeton Dam where hundreds of holidaymakers are camping at the surrounding 900ha of state park during the school holidays.

A State Water spokesman said staff were contacted by police at 11.30am and asked to stop releasing water from Copeton Dam and their instructions were “acted on immediately”.

The spokesman said about 1600 megalitres a day was being released from the dam, but all releases have been stopped until further notice. 

Surf Life Saving NSW spokesman Dean Storey confirmed in a statement the two were members of North Narrabeen Surf Life Saving Club.

“Obviously our thoughts are with the families and friends,” he said.

A post-mortem examination will officially determine how the two died and detectives attached to Barwon Local Area Command will continue inquiries into how the boat capsized as a part of their report for the coroner.

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