Crews search for Matthew Barclay.
Crews search for Matthew Barclay.

Jet skier describes seeing Matthew Barclay for the last time

A JET ski operator has told an inquest into the death of Sunshine Coast iron man Matthew Barclay he could not say with absolute certainty whether a safety boat was in the water or on the beach when the teen died.

Matthew Barclay, 14, disappeared in surf off Kurrawa while competing in a board event at the Australian Surf Lifesaving Championships last year on the Gold Coast.

His body was found the following day.

A coronial inquest into the events surrounding his death commenced on Monday in the Brisbane Magistrates Court.

Volunteer jet ski operator Brian Lewis told the inquest of the moment he noticed a competitor in the water who was unresponsive in what he described as "challenging" and "relentless" surf conditions.

He said he was one of two jet ski operators who were observing the under-15 race when he noticed a competitor's head in the water, about 10 metres to the right of his position at the rear of the field.

"I saw a competitor in the water who was without a board," he said.

"I then noticed a board come towards him, but I am not sure where it came from.

"The competitor, who I now know as Matthew Barclay, then went under the water before springing back up again.

"It was like a washing machine action, the person went straight down and back up then basically went back down and that was the last I saw of them."

Mr Lewis said when he first saw Matthew in the water he was making no attempt to signal for help.

He told the inquest the rough conditions prevented him from leaving his jet ski in a bid to help the stricken competitor, instead holding his position until other help arrived.

"When I first saw Matthew in the water he was making no attempt to do anything," he said.

"He made no attempt to swim, no attempt to put his arms into the air or any attempt to keep his head above water.

"Something appeared to have happened earlier, but I did not see what that was."

The Barclay's barrister asked Mr Lewis about procedures in relation to safety boats during the teen's race and whether one as in the water at the time.

"Races do start until a safety boat is in place," he said.

"I can not say for certainty whether it (safety boat) was on the water or on the beach."

The inquest then heard from Adam Weir who was employed by Surf Lifesaving Australia to perform risk assessment management at the event.

Mr Weir told the inquest he performed an assessment of the area of surf an hour prior to Matthew's race when he became aware six female under-15 competitors had failed to complete their event.

"I was asked to come down by the water safety personnel to make an assessment," he said.

"As a result I observed a number of potential hazards.

"What I observed was competitors were getting stuck on the outer bank."

Mr Weir said he continued to observe conditions for a further 15 minutes and felt comfortable with the decision to allow events to proceed despite making an assessment it was a medium level impact event which could result in possible injury, including hospitalisation.

He told the inquest, based on his assessment and observations, he did not have the power to stop an event with that responsibility falling to either the referee, section referee or championship referee

The inquest before Coroner Terry Ryan continues.

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