By Sebastian Sinclair
A police officer ordered swimmers to evacuate rough seas after a man went missing during the Australian Lifesaving Championship.
Acting Sergeant Bruce Kolka told the Brisbane Coroners Court on Monday that he became “frustrated” when up to 50 swimmers were ordered from the heavy surf at Kurrawa.
Bird, 19, went missing after a stray surf ski hit him in the head during the Gold Coast competition.
Sgt Kolka, who was also competing in the carnival, says swimmers stood the best chance of finding Bird as they could use their hands and feet to locate him.
“The general feeling on the beach was the only way we were going to find someone on the bottom is with a swimmer,” he said.
“It was very turbulent if you opened your eyes you were lucky to see your hand three inches in front of your eyes.
“There was absolutely no visibility.”
However, he said he did not argue when he received a phone call from his superior, Sergeant John Kazmierowicz, requesting he help keep the water clear so a helicopter and motorised craft could sweep the area.
“I could understand the reasoning in asking us to leave the water,” he said.
“The last thing we needed was someone else to go missing.”
When asked if he raised concerns with Sgt Kazmierowicz about the effectiveness of a search without swimmers, Sgt Kolka said he simply followed orders.
“I think I just got instructions from him I don’t think I suggested that to him,” he said.
“You certainly respected his position enough to follow what he suggested do you?” asked Peter Johns, counsel assisting state coroner Michael Barnes.
“Yes,” Sgt Kolka said.
The inquest is still underway.