Around the corner from 11-year-old Ryan Teasdale’s house, Riley Park was a kids’ adventure playground in the rain.
Surrounded by houses, the park has long attracted children from the nearby streets, who have delighted in sliding down the hill on boogie boards and making the most of the slippery grass.
But now this innocent fun will be forever marred by tragedy, after the young boy went missing late on Thursday afternoon as torrential rain lashed the area.
Ryan was last seen about 4.30pm, when he was playing with a group of other children and his 13-year-old brother, who raised the alarm when his younger sibling didn’t return home.
Emergency services crews descended on the area and their search stretched into the night, as Ryan’s distressed family watched on.
From first light on Friday another methodical scan of the suburb began.
With maps of the stormwater network, small teams of SES and council crews moved from drain to drain, using an excavator to lift grates and tagging each as it was inspected.
As the search continued, residents stopped at the park, wanting to know if the boy had been found, or if there was anything they could to help.
By late morning, the crews moved towards Unanderra’s Western Suburbs pool and, about 11.15am, Ryan’s body was found in a creek bed about 500 metres from the park.
An emotional Lake Illawarra Superintendent Zoran Dzevlan delivered the news.
“It's with great sadness that I can tell you that we have located the body of the young boy in the creek bed at the end of a stormwater drain,” he said.
Dense growth obscured the grim scene from passing motorists on the Princes Highway, and about an hour later, a group of emergency services personnel could be seen carrying the body out of the creek.
Back at the park all was quiet; the track-lined grass was empty as Police Rescue trucks packed up and the raging waters from Thursday night had slowed to a trickle.
Late in the afternoon, people cloaked in rain jackets came from the surrounding streets to place flowers near the drain at the bottom of the hill where Ryan vanished.
Kneeling on the sodden ground and crying as they placed the blooms, perhaps they were trying to comprehend how a children’s game went so horribly wrong.