An annual camping trip for a northern beaches surf club ended in tragedy when two people were found dead after a boat capsized on the Gwydir River in western NSW.
A 55-year-old woman and a eight-year-old girl, both members of the North Narrabeen Surf Club, disappeared when an aluminium surf boat carrying seven people capsized in the river at Bingara, near Tamworth.
The boat sank just after 10am and only five of the occupants were able to swim to shore.
The girl was a nipper at the club and the woman was an experienced surf lifesaver and champion inflatable rescue boat competitor.
Their bodies were recovered at 5.30pm. Rough water conditions in the muddy, winding river were believed to have contributed to the deaths.
Police divers travelled from Sydney on Tuesday afternoon to help SES volunteers, local police, paramedics and a Westpac lifesaver helicopter conduct land and water searches.
The group were among about 30 people on a week-long family camping trip organised by the surf club for its members and supporters each year.
One member, who did not wish to be named, said the club had been organising the October school holidays getaway for 30 years. "Nothing like this has ever happened," he said. "It's devastating."
A club newsletter said the "river trip" was a camping holiday on an inland river for young families.
One life member, Carl Ross, said "everybody" in the club knew the two members. The secretary of the junior committee, Geoff Halpin, said the club had more than 360 nippers and the little girl's family were "very active" in it.
Local police will investigate how the boat capsized and prepare a report for the coroner.