A Sydney dad who drowned at Penrith Beach is being remembered as a hero after his selfless act saved the lives of three of his children.
Willmot man Seti Tuaopepe, 35, took three of his children into a designated paddleboarding area at Penrith’s newly opened beach on Boxing Day.
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The father of five, whose youngest child is just four months old, fell into the water with his children and was last seen trying to push them to the surface before disappearing.
7NEWS understands none of them could swim.
A major search and rescue operation involving police divers, a rescue helicopter and NSW Ambulance paramedics was organised after the call for help went out about 2.35pm on Tuesday.
Penrith Beach, which opened only one week ago, was shut and Tuaopepe’s body was found about 6.15pm.
It is believed the state government rejected a tender from Surf Life Saving New South Wales to provide lifeguards at the new swimming spot and only three Royal Life Saving Australia lifeguards were on duty at the time.
“Rescues can be incredibly exhausting, and they really are only for the strongest of swimmers,” Royal Life Saving Australia CEO Justin Scarr said.
“Our heart breaks for the family, but also many of the people that watched that unfold yesterday, including the young lifeguards.”
Seti Tuaopepe failed to resurface after saving his children. Credit: Supplied
Tuaopepe was praised for his efforts to save his three children, with many calling his final act of sacrifice heroic.
“A great man and a wonderful father taken too soon,” one social media user said.
“You’re a hero, my uso, rest in love,” said another.
Others simply called Tuaopepe a “brave man”.
“This tragedy has touched everyone … he’s a hero for saving his children.”