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'Matt Barclay's death followed warnings about surf'

Thousands turned out to farewell Matt Barclay.
Thousands turned out to farewell Matt Barclay. Cade Mooney

SUNSHINE Coast lifesaver Matthew Barclay died after senior carnival referees were warned about dangerous surf conditions 'at least twice', according to a program to air on Four Corners tonight.

The Maroochydore competitor, just 14, became the third competitor to die at the national championships at Kurrawa Beach on the Gold Coast.

Robert Gatenby died in 1996, and Saxon Bird in 2010.

The ABC reports that Greg Holland, an official competition announcer in the under-19 arena told Four Corners that he overheard the warnings on the official two-way radio channel used by competition officials.

He heard reports that the surf was "pretty strong for that young group of competitors" and perhaps they ought to be moved to another day or a different spot on the beach.

Mr Holland says he contacted the police and Surf Life Saving officials with the information, but neither has followed up with him.

The former president of Sydney's Cronulla Surf Club says he overheard the area referee in the under-15 arena relay concerns to the deputy referee saying officials, parents and spectators were concerned about the safety of junior competitors.

Despite these warnings, Matthew Barclay's competition continued and at around 4:30pm on March 19 last year, he was apparently struck on the head and lost in the surf during the board rescue heats.

His body was recovered the next morning.

The police report is now in the hands of the Queensland coroner, who is yet to decide if there will be an inquest.

The surf community has been divided about whether or not competition should have gone ahead on that day.

Ironman legend Grant Kenny told the Daily last year that Matthew's death was a horrible, freak accident.

Mr Kenny, who was on the beach on when Matt went missing, said the surf conditions were reasonable, not dangerous.

Gold Coast lifeguards said  no Gold Coast beaches were closed on the day.

However, another surf official was furious that junior competition went ahead.

"They cancelled reserve boat racing and they allow under-15s out there," the long-time Australia surf official told the Daily at the time.

"It's just bloody wrong.

"These people need to be held to account."

Topics:  matthew barclay surf life saving


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