Thursday night at the Teasdale family home in Unanderra was long and excruciating.
Outside, the gutters babbled with racing stormwater. A relentless sheet of rain pelted the plastic coats of the grave-faced police and SES volunteers gathered two streets away, at the opening to a stormwater drain.
Brought together by the sobering disappearance of 11-year-old Ryan Teasdale, relatives and more police bolstered numbers inside the home so that it became full with people, late into the night.
The group was waiting, said Ryan’s mother Melissa Teasdale - not for good news, but for any news.
“We had so much support,” Mrs Teasdale told the Mercury. “But deep down we knew he was gone.”
“We just wanted them to find him.
"We knew he was gone. We just wanted closure."
The body of Ryan, a boy with deep dimples and kind eyes, was discovered the following morning about 500 metres from the drain opening at the downhill end of Riley Park.
Thursday afternoon had marked Ryan’s first time at the park’s naturally occurring waterslide, formed on the generous, grassy slope in times of significant rainfall, Mrs Teasdale said.
Good, muddy fun, the pursuit was right up Ryan’s alley.
“He was a happy little boy,” Mrs Teasdale said. “Everyone who met him loved him – just a ray of sunshine, so cheeky. Always pulling faces.”
“It’s never going to be the same without him.”
Ryan and his brother Jason, 13, took to the hill with boogie boards before Jason returned home about 4.30pm, explaining his brother had disappeared.
Authorities asked the family to consider whether Ryan might have gone to a friend’s house, but after arriving at the park, Mrs Teasdale never gave the theory any mind.
“When I saw the drain … I was searching and I saw it and I knew then," she said.
The family had taken great comfort in the support shown by emergency services workers, friends and strangers, she said. “People were out there, searching,” she said. “I just want to express my gratitude to everyone in my community.”
Mrs Teasdale declined to comment on the question of whether the drain should have had a cover.