A BRUSH with death had given Ben Winn a new outlook on life.
Relatives revealed yesterday how the former Hunter Sports High School student had changed since being struck by a car several months ago.
The 20-year-old from Gateshead gave up alcohol, started going to the gym, and left surprise gifts for family members. He even began learning French on a trip to Belgium.
VIDEO: Tuesday afternoon update on the search. Video filmed and produced by Dean Osland
‘‘He changed his behaviour to be really positive towards everyone,’’ his sister Amanda Mackenzie-Kludas said.
‘‘He just started doing random acts of kindness.’’
Today his family is praying the traits that helped him bounce back from the road ordeal will carry him through another. But their hopes are fading fast.
Mr Winn and his mate Trey Adamson, 18, are missing, feared drowned, after a weekend fishing trip to ‘‘Flat Rock’’ on the southern reaches of Lake Macquarie went terribly wrong.
Flat Rock, which is at the northern end of Ghosties, is the same treacherous fishing spot that claimed the lives of five people from two Sydney families in 2010.
Large waves are known to break over the rock shelf.
The body of Mr Adamson’s girlfriend, Niranda Blair, also 18, of Edgeworth, was discovered on Ghosties beach, Frazer Park, about 9.30am on Sunday.
Ms Mackenzie-Kludas was among relatives and friends combing the shoreline yesterday for her brother and his mate.
Some were in tears, others stared forlornly out to sea.
Ms MacKenzie-Kludas was accompanied by her husband, Saul, and their seven-month-old son, Bodhi. They, along with dozens of others, searched from before dawn to after dusk.
‘‘If Ben is out there and he’s tired and cold, then I should be there,’’ Ms Mackenzie-Kludas said. ‘‘We’re being really safe but just looking for things other people wouldn’t recognise [as theirs] ... just hoping they’re in a cave or on rocks or something and they’re going to get found.’’
Keeping a vigil yesterday was Mr Adamson’s uncle, Douglas Elliott, who described the Windale teenager as relaxed and easy-going.
‘‘He was sensible for an 18-year-old kid,’’ Mr Elliott said.
‘‘He didn’t even Facebook – what type of 18-year-old doesn’t have Facebook?’’
Mr Elliott said Trey’s mother, Tracey, was ‘‘devastated’’ after the long second day of searching.
Emergency helicopters, lifesavers on power skis, police and maritime rescue officials in boats plus police divers were involved in the operation.
They will scale back their efforts today, but those closest to the pair have not given up on them being alive.
‘‘As the hours wind down it looks less and less likely that’s going to happen, but while they’re not found there’s hope,’’ Mr Elliott said.