The body of a 65-year-old Sydney man was recovered from the ocean less than three hours after he fell off rocks near the Kiama Blowhole on Friday morning.
The man was fishing with his 63-year-old friend at the extreme eastern end of Blowhole Point when he fell in the water just before 10.30am.
The man’s body was recovered about 1pm, a few kilometres south of where he fell in and about 500 metres offshore.
Sergeant Jason Harrison from Lake Illawarra Local Area Command said it was unclear exactly how the man entered the water, although they believed a wave may have swept him from the rocks.
‘‘At one stage, his friend looked over to see the 65-year-old man was no longer standing there,’’ he said.
‘‘He may have slipped or there may have been some underlying health condition that caused him to fall into the water.’’
The man was wearing a weighted backpack trolley containing his fishing gear when he fell.
‘‘There might have been a weight [in his backpack] contributing to his inability to remain above water,’’ Sgt Harrison said.
He said surf conditions were relatively mild on Friday.
‘‘We’ve certainly seen this location a lot more ferocious.’’
When the man’s 63-year-old friend noticed he was missing, he raised the alarm with nearby tourists.
Zhang Rong, from China, was visiting Kiama on holidays and said she was approached by the man, who told her that his friend had fallen into the water.
A woman nearby called the police and Ms Rong assisted in translating for the Mandarin-speaking fisherman.
A rescue helicopter searched the water for 50 minutes before leaving to refuel, and divers and boats remained in the water throughout the search. SES members combed the shore for any signs of the man.
The Westpac Lifesaver chopper was then brought in about 12.20pm and located the missing man. A surf lifesaving rescue boat brought him ashore at Kiama Harbour.
The extensive operation involved Lake Illawarra police, the SES, Marine Rescue and Surf Life Saving Australia, as well as a private boat with police officers on board.
The lower viewing platform at the blowhole was cordoned off by police tape during the operation, but tourists and bystanders continued to trickle in to see what was happening.
A report will be prepared for the coroner.