Lifesavers are urging people to take note of severe swell warnings after a Victorian man drowned while trying to save children caught in a rip in Wollongong on Sunday afternoon.
The incident comes just two weeks before surf lifesavers commence weekend patrols on the beach, and after the Bureau of Meteorology had issued a warning for hazardous surf and swell conditions.
"We've seen seas and waves of three to four metres," Surf Life Saving Illawarra duty officer Daren Weidner said on Sunday night.
"It might look picturesque and quite tame, but there's quite a strong undercurrent and tow dragging through out there. So people, especially inexperienced people, need to heed the warnings and just don't go into the water if there's any doubt whatsoever."
The father of the children managed to assist his two younger children to shore, however the two older children, aged 10 and 12, became caught in a rip.
An off-duty paramedic at the beach entered the water and assisted the 10-year-old boy to shore.
The off-duty paramedic was followed into the water by a 32-year-old man, who was attempting to rescue the 12-year-old child, but after reaching the child got into trouble himself.
A nearby surfer, also 32 years old, was able to reach the pair and assist the child to shore, but the man was swept out to sea.
Three police officers who arrived at the scene entered the water and brought the man onto the beach.
A witness at the scene said she was at the beach with her children when she heard "yelling and screaming".
"I could hear some kids screaming out, and then we looked and could see them floating out," she said.
"There wasn't enough help, they were in distress."
NSW Ambulance paramedics commenced CPR on the man but he was unresponsive. The man was taken to Wollongong Hospital were he later died.
The two boys and the off-duty paramedic were also taken to Wollongong Hospital for assessment. The children have been released, however the off-duty paramedic remains in hospital on Monday morning.