Perfect viewing platform an unforgiving death trap

THE magnet is the view, the reward is the tasty feed.

Experienced rock fishermen say Flat Rock, a small and level outcrop that juts into the Tasman Sea just south of Catherine Hill Bay, is popular with them because it is popular with fish.

And on a calm day, it looks a picture.

But all too often, Flat Rock has become a fatal obsession.

Its beauty masks a list of deadly flaws that appear to have claimed three more young lives over the weekend.

The first is why it is called Flat Rock, the rock shelf runs level for many metres before it fiercely drops off and into the sea.

And that means that ‘‘rogue waves’’ or large swells that crash over the initial shelf almost gather pace as they swamps everything in their wake. Like equipment, fishing rods - and people.

Flat Rock is also made up of jagged rock formations that almost form small blades, making it unbearable to walk barefoot on, let along be dragged across by a large swell.

‘‘You can definitely see the magnet - you walk out and the view itself is just stunning,’’ one observer said yesterday.

‘‘But one surge and you are gone, you have nowhere to hide or run to if something crashes onto it.’’

It is unclear how Edgeworth teenager Niranda Blair came to drown. It may never be clear.

What has happened to her two male friends – Trey Adamson, 18, and Ben Winn, 20, – will remain even more of a mystery unless their bodies are found.

And Flat Rock does not give up its secrets easily.

In May 2010, five people from two Sydney families were washed to their deaths metres from where the weekend victims’ equipment was discovered just after dawn yesterday.

The Hong-Kong-born victims had disappeared on a Mother’s Day expedition after huge swells whipped up an unpredictable sea.

Only four bodies were recovered.

The deaths of North Rocks couple Kin Leung ‘‘Dennis’’ Tin, his wife Sau Ying Kwong Tin, and their Carlingford friends Pofong and Agnes Poon, and their son Dillon, prompted a coroner to look into the safety of rock fishing across the state.

A week earlier another man was swept to his death from Snapper Point, a few hundred metres south of Flat Rock.

Deputy State Coroner Mark Buscombe looked into the deaths of 12 people including the Flat Rock five, before recommending that the Department of Primary Industries consider lifesaving devices become compulsory for rock fishermen.

He said there was an ‘‘inherent dangerousness associated with rock fishing given that those said to be experienced and good swimmers can still lose their lives when engaging in this activity’’.

The coroner also spoke about a need for more education, something echoed by experts directly after the Flat Rock five were killed.

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