A HEARTBREAKING journey begins for people of the Hastings, as the full aftermath of nature’s fury is felt.
As floors are swept, and sandbags are stood aside, locals will spare a thought for Bonny Hills teen Luke O’Neill – the young sportsman described as “gifted” and “wonderful” – who tragically lost his life on Friday afternoon.
His death will resonate with a devastated community as they pick up the pieces after days of wild weather.
As heavy rain battered the region on Friday, the 17-year-old and his friends were wading through waist-deep water at the Camden Haven Golf Club, on Kendall Road in Kew.
Police said the group of friends were simply searching for golf balls – as they had often done before – when the sheer force of the floodwater pulled Luke into a drainpipe.
Two friends searched for him, before one of them was also sucked into the pipe.
The 16-year-old emerged in a dam, after being swept through the pipe for 100 metres, but Luke was no where in sight.
Police said the 16-year-old was in a stable condition, with water in his lungs.
The following morning, a friend found Luke’s body lying in the reeds, some 40 metres away from the exit of the drain he disappeared down.
Port Macquarie Police Inspector Kim Fehon said Luke’s friends were very distressed and his death would devastate the community.
“They’re local boys. It’s an absolutely huge impact [for] a very tight-knit community,” she said.
Local police, NSW Fire and Rescue, paramedics and SES volunteers all took part in the search for Luke.
Tributes flowed on the memorial Facebook page R.I.P Luke, where heartfelt poems, short notes and long letters expressed the deep sense of loss felt by many.
Read Gordon Wiegold's tribute to Luke by clicking on the photo below