A trip to the beach turned deadly for a Western Australian couple when their pet dog was sucked underwater by a rip, causing him to disappear into a reef.
Georgia Crook was enjoying a swim at 11 Mile Beach in Esperance with her partner Ashley Bowden and their two dogs, Mushu and Tilly, last weekend when suddenly tragedy struck. The couple said they visited the beach on a day when the water was "clear and still", but as they splashed about in the knee-deep water, Mushu suddenly vanished.
A photo shared by the couple shows Ms Crook in the water with the animals, moments before Mushu — an Australian shepherd — disappeared as a dangerous current sucked him under a rock. They're seen standing metres from the rocks that claimed his life.
"It all happened in about two seconds, and in front of our eyes," Ms Crook told 7News. "I knew instantly he was gone and we weren’t getting him back. He was helpless."
Mr Bowden reportedly tried desperately to search for their dog by diving underwater, but all he could see was black, they told the ABC. The couple searched the beach and the reef hoping Mushu might wash up on the shore but headed home when they failed to find him.
Pet owners warn other beachgoers
Taking to Facebook following the tragedy, Ms Crook warned others about the perils of the popular swimming spot, saying "signage needs to be on that reef".
"RIP beautiful boy," she wrote. "We are going to make sure this doesn’t happen again Mushu."
According to SLSA's Beachsafe, 11 Mile Beach has a general hazard rating of 8/10, indicating it is "highly hazardous". It also warns of rips.
But Ms Crook, at 33 weeks pregnant, said "it wasn’t deep water and it was still" so there weren't taking any risks. While there is some signage along the beach, "signage on the particular spot would be more appropriate" Mr Bowden added.
"It is a unique hole in the rock which is unseen when the water level is higher," he said. "We miss you every day Mushu".
Other lives lost at same beach spot
Ms Crook's Facebook post was reportedly flooded with comments from others saying they too suffered a similar outcome.
"We got so many comments saying, 'My dog got taken there too','" Ms Crook told the ABC. "It shocked us that so many people have lost their pets this way." Had they known the reef had suction, they would have spent the day somewhere else, she said.
"I just don't want anyone else's dog to get taken and I definitely don't want it to be a child. I mean, if Ash didn't have hold of the rock when he went under to look for Mushu, I wouldn't have got him back either," she claimed.
Signs will be updated 'as a priority'
In a statement to media, the Shire of Esperance said it takes coastal safety very seriously and confirmed universal signage is in place which warns of hazards, including strong currents and slippery rocks found at coastal access points. But the council said it is already working in partnership with Surf Life Saving WA "who have carried out a coastal risk assessment and advised on updated signage."
"The coastal hazard signage on the Esperance tourist loop and town areas will be updated as a priority."
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.