THE uncle of NRL star Marty Taupau drowned saving strangers’ lives on an Australian beach, as tributes pour in.
Heroic dad-of-six, Talitiga Taupau, dived into the sea at Shelly Beach in the Sydney suburb of Cronulla in an effort to save swimmers who had gotten into difficulty.
Although one swimmer, aged in his 20s, managed to make it back to shore, Taupau and another swimmer were found unconscious and lifesavers pulled them from the water.
Tragically, the 44-year-old could not be saved, while the other man, in his 40s, is in a critical condition having been underwater for three minutes.
He has been taken to St George Hospital for treatment.
NSW Police are continuing their inquiries in the area and are preparing a report for the coroner.
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The patrolled area of the beach was closed for the rest of Saturday.
Marty paid a touching tribute to his uncle on his Instagram page, posting a video along with the words in Samoan: “Manuia lau malaga” which means have a good trip.
One follower said: “Condolences and prayers to you and your family.”
Another wrote: “Rest in love. Sending my love and condolences fam. Stay strong unkz.”
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While a third added: Love to your family legend. RIP UNC.”
The rugby league star, who had moved this season to the Brisbane Broncos from the Manly Sea Eagles, told 9News: "It's really sad that this has obviously happened but he will never be forgotten for his actions.”
Since December 1, there have been 14 deaths from drowning in New South Wales.
Surf Life Saving NSW's Director of Lifesaving Joel Wiseman said volunteer rescuers were under enormous strain after the number of drownings.
He told the news outlet: “We are experiencing one of our busiest summers ever with huge rescue numbers, and our volunteers have put in a massive effort to try to keep people safe along the coast.
“Despite the growing drowning toll, volunteers and lifeguards should be very proud of what they've achieved so far this summer.
Joel added: “There are a combination of factors making this summer so deadly. Including people taking risks, alcohol consumption, and crowded beaches which can lead beachgoers to seek out unfamiliar and unpatrolled locations.
“Rip currents remain the number one coastal hazard and the 14 coastal drowning deaths this summer have all occurred at unpatrolled locations.”
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