Ballina surf lifesavers conducting water searches for Raz Burtonwood at Lighthouse Beach in Ballina.
Ballina surf lifesavers conducting water searches for Raz Burtonwood at Lighthouse Beach in Ballina. Marc Stapelberg

Swim fins may help in finding missing lifesaver

UPDATE4.25pm: THE search for missing Ballina swimmer Raz Burtonwood will continue tomorrow. 

Richmond District Police confirmed the search for Mr Burtonwood, 67, would resume on Tuesday, with resources from the Marine Area Command, Marine Rescue and SLS continuing their efforts along the coastline and beach foreshore.  

Surf Club members SES, police, marine rescue and community members have been searching the water for three days in the hopes they'll find the well-known Ballina man, who has been a member of Ballina Lighthouse Surf Live Saving Club for 25-years. 


UPDATE 2.07pm: POLICE have asked the public help in the search for missing swimmer Raz Burtonwood.

The 69-year-old man entered the water for a swim on Saturday, but was not seen again.

The search for the man continues today with resources from the Marine Area Command, Marine Rescue and SLS continuing their efforts along the coastline and beach foreshore.

Investigators have also asked beachgoers for assistance.

Missing swimmer Raz Burtonwood was wearing fins similar to these when he went missing on Saturday. Police ask the public to look out for them on local beaches.
Missing swimmer Raz Burtonwood was wearing fins similar to these when he went missing on Saturday. Police ask the public to look out for them on local beaches. NSW Police

Police have released an image of the swim fins used by the man and are seeking assistance from members of the public if any similar item is located on the beach.

It is believed that the yellow and black 'Mad Dog' brand fins were being worn by the missing man and that they could be washed ashore on the adjacent coastline.

If a fin, or any other item of interest is located in the area, police investigating the man's disappearance are urging the finder to come forward.

Anyone with information that is relevant to the investigation is urged to contact Ballina police, the Marine Area Command, or Crime Stoppers.


UPDATE 11.35am: BALLINA lifesavers are continuing the search today for one of their own who went missing on Saturday morning in rough surf conditions.

Ballina lifesaver Raz Burtonwood was reported missing after he failed to return from his regular morning swim at Lighthouse Beach on Saturday.

Ballina Surf Club president Mario van Eck said the search resumed this morning at Lighthouse Beach at 7.30am with four IRBs and three jet skis in operation.

"Evans Head were also on patrol and at 7.30am they got on the water and went as far as Broadwater," Mr van Eck said.

"Police are running the show at moment and they're operating from the tower. We're just being told where they want us to go.

"This morning we went south west to meet up with the Evans Head crew and then went north from there. The second crew then went out and were tasked to go from North Wall to Flat Rock for two hours.

"They've been up to Flat Rock and they've been making a slow cruise back in two hour blocks.
"We haven't given up yet."

Mr can Eck said today's surf and weather conditions were "generally pretty good" and should help with the search of the missing 69-year-old.

"Conditions are a lot better today," he said.

"The first day was the worst as it was overcast and very choppy and there was big swells and lots of waves.

"Yesterday was pretty good and today is better than yesterday. But the dull light probably isn't very good."

Club members from the region have all been lending a helping hand in the search mission.

"The efforts that have been put in by our club members and surrounding club members has been outstanding," Mr van Eck said.

"They've seen to have stepped up and known the jobs they need to and have done them exceptionally well. The search party process has been first class.

"Mainly today it's our club but there others around like Evans Head. Yesterday we had people from Lennox Head, Salt and Byron Bay. The support has been very good.

"We've had community members who have come down to give us their best wishes and we've had some community members helping out in the kitchen feeding everyone.

"The club and community has pulled together really well.

"I'd like to thank everybody, including our members and members of other surf clubs, police, marine rescue, SES and every emergency association in the area that has responded."

Mr van Eck said drones have also been in use throughout the search, providing vital information to the search party.

"We've got the drones up, it's been one of our best assets as they can go so far and so quick," he said.

"We've got one here and one in south Ballina as well.

"There's also two lifeguards on each of the four IRBs and they're all in radio contact with each other."

After the second two hour search concluded at 11am, the four IRBs returned to the mainland and are waiting for further instruction from the police as to what their next step is.

UPDATE 10.30am: THE search for missing man Raz Burtonwood continues.

Surf life savers resumed the search this morning at 7.30am and will continue throughout the day under the direction of police.


UPDATE 11.00am: THE Ballina surf live saving community remain in shock after an "indestructible" member of its fraternity, Raz Burtonwood, disappeared while on routine morning swim on Saturday

Every available resource was poured into the search for the 25 year veteran of the Ballina Lighthouse Surf Live Saving Club.

But up until late yesterday no trace of Mr Burtonwood was found.

He was on a regular morning training swim prior to his patrol duties beginning on Saturday, when his disappeared from view.

Ballina Lighthouse Surf Life Saving Club president Mario van Eck said  conditions on Saturday were "choppy and swelly" when Mr Burtonwood failed to return to the beach.

Patrol members called for three trucks, two jet skis, a jet boat and a helicopter when they lost sight of Raz and became concerned for his safety.

"We had a few guys out there standing around trying to work out if a carnival should go on and a couple of us said 'where has he gone, we can't see him', so we got the binoculars out and it all escalated from there. It was pretty wild weather yesterday," he said.

"Raz has been a life saver here for 25 years and his patrol was on yesterday morning and what he normally does is go for a swim because he likes to go for a swim no matter what the conditions are, he is one of the best swimmers in the club.

"About 9.30 am he was seen coming around the headland here, swimming and catching waves, which is what he always does. Nothing unusual about that happening."

Mr. van eck said that anybody that could help with the search had turned out in huge numbers. All to no avail.

"We're still hoping for a miracle,' Mr. van eck said.

One of Mr Burtonwood's close friends, Eoin Johnston, who is a life member of the Ballina surf club, and has known Raz for 40 years, said it was very traumatic when they had to call off the search on Saturday.

"Raz is very diverse, complex character. I have known him through rugby union, water polo, surf club, and body surfing," he said.

"I would not think he would be a person who would get in trouble in the surf.

"He is one of the better surf swimmers you are ever going to see. As for body surfing, he is fearless, he is indestructible, he would go anywhere, he would surf Lennox Point with 40 other board riders."

Mr. Johnston said Raz had swam many times across the river mouth to go for a surf at South Ballina but was concerned for his friend's life.

"There are many currents around, strong surf, and the tide yesterday morning when we were looking over the walls was flying out," he said.

"It would be such a relief if we could just find the little fella and give him a decent farewell.

"It's very hard to cop. A lot of people might say well that's the way that Raz would like to go but I think he would like another 10 years, he is as fit as a trout, a great surfer and enjoyed life to the fullest."

"He was a wonderful rugby player in his day, popular guy, funny guy."

Mr Johnston said he is not at all surprised by the amount of resource to support the search, 'life savers are like the bush fire people, when there is a thing on they will chip in and do what they can.'


UPDATE 9.40am:  RAZ Burtonwood went missing in the water at Ballina yesterday, the former teacher, veteran lifeguard, and much loved member of a number of sporting groups on the Northern Rivers.

Today members of those groups are part of a desperate search to locate him.

Facebook groups are sharing messages of love and support.

Far North Coast Waterpolo said: " Please send your thoughts and prayers for Raz Burtonwood, he is currently missing in the ocean off light house beach. Our love is sent to his family and the guys from LE-BA and we would like to thank those who have been searching for Raz for us".

"Raz is a big part of both the Polo and Clubby families and we hope to bring him to shore."

Jetts Ballina said: "Please send your thoughts, love and prayers for Raz Burtonwood. Raz is currently missing in the ocean off light house beach. Raz is a BIG part of our Community and loved member at Jetts Ballina. Our love is sent to his family and we would like to thank those who have been searching for Raz for us".

Mr Burtonwood, an active, fit 69-year-old, talked to The Northern Star in 2014 about how he kept fit.

"I spend a lot of time outdoors - I do outrigger paddling, swimming training, body surfing, cross country ... and that's just for starters. Walking the dog everyday helps too."

UPDATE 9.30am: NSW Police said 69-year-old Raz Burtonwood,was reported missing at about 10:15am yesterday.

Emergency services were called to Lighthouse Beach at Ballina, after reports a swimmer. entered the water earlier and had not been seen since.

Officers from Richmond Police District attended and commenced a search for the man, assisted by the Marine Area Command, State Emergency Service (SES), NSW Ambulance, Surf Lifesavers, Marine Rescue and the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter.

Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or

Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.


UPDATE 9.00am: NSW police have confirmed a multi-agency search is still ongoing for 69-year-old Raz Burtonwood, missing since yesterday,

The search resumed at 8am this morning with Marine Rescue, Surf Life Saving NSW, Marine Area Command and Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

A helicopter was brought in from Sydney to assist with the search.

Police advise that they will reassess the search at the end of the day if Mr. Burtonwood has not been found.


Original story: A man named Raz Burtonwood went missing this morning in the ocean off Lighthouse beach after failing to return home from his regular morning swim.

A Spokesperson from Westpac Rescue Helicopter said Westpac Helicopter was tasked to the scene around 10.30am to search for Mr. Burtonwood who is in his late 60's but returned to base after being unable to locate the man.

The search is ongoing with Police and Ambulance crew on standby at the scene.

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