Ironman dies in Australian seas

SYDENY:An Australian surf lifesaving champion was killed today during an ironman contest in rough seas churned up by Tropical Cyclone Ului, officials said, as the storm was downgraded to a Category Two.

Saxon Bird, 19,

was knocked unconscious by a ski and disappeared in

wild surf 150 metres off Kurrawa Beach during the Australian Surf Lifesaving Championships.

Surf lifesaving

combines lifeguard services and competitive surfing.

Rescuers managed to find and retrieve the national title-holder, but he died in hospital following a briefly successful attempt to revive him, championship officials said.

Coach Damien Bailey told Channel Ten News: “He was an outstanding young man — boy, really — he just had everything.” Bailey competed at Kurrawa on Thursday and said conditions posed “one of the most dangerous situations I have ever been in”.

A 15-year-old surf lifesaver drowned

at the same beach during national titles held in tropical cyclone conditions

in 1996, but officials pressed ahead with today’s contest despite the crashing swell. Ului was downgraded to a Category Two storm as it closed in on Australia’s

east coast, whipping up wild seas.

Hundreds of tourists and residents were this week evacuated from islands on the Great Barrier Reef thought to be in the cyclone’s path.

It was gusting at 111 kilometres per hour at its centre, about 850 kilometres off the coast. But meteorologists said the weakened storm system was unlikely to make a resurgence and would cross Australia’s coast on Sunday morning.