He praised the heroism of the volunteers and surfers who helped save lives in “one of the most tragic events we have seen here in Illawarra”.
An eighth man, a surfer who suffered chemical burns to his face while helping with the rescue, also required medical attention.
Alex Rush, one of about 10 surfers who helped in the effort and delivered his board to one of the men as a buoyancy aid, said they were trying to get the men out of there as quickly as possible when the waves broke in the area.
“The boat came through where we were surfing. We were right there,” Mr Rush said.
Nigel Pennington, another surfer who witnessed the incident, said the swell was great in the area where the boat was found.
“The surfers just responded right away. These guys came under that boat under pretty ugly conditions,” he said.
Norman Rees, NSW Ambulance Chief Inspector, said seven ambulances and a number of helicopters were required to respond to the challenging and chaotic conditions.
“Thirty-five years in the job, it’s one of the biggest I’ve been to,” he said.
Police have seized the capsized boat and are talking to the vessel’s skipper and witnesses as part of the investigation into the incident.
“All we know is that the vessel capsized off or near Waniora Point. What caused it, we do not know,” said Darren Brown, NSW police chief.
He said the men knew each other and may have fished or participated in another form of recreation, but the exact circumstances were still unknown.
Specialists from the NSW Police Marine Area Command in Sydney will assist with the investigation.
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