THE mother of a young man who died while swimming at a Byron Bay waterhole said she pushed for a coronial inquest to ensure others didn't suffer the same fate as her beloved son.

Tracie Medew, of Melbourne, came to Byron Bay to attend the three day coronial inquest into her son Brendan Vickery's untimely death in February 2014.

Brendan, 20, disappeared into the murky waters of the Island Quarry water hole off Ewingsdale Rd, shortly after jumping from an 8.5m ledge. Some time after hitting the water he had complained of feeling weak.

Mrs Medew said the coronial inquest was a "long drawn out process" but had settled in her mind all but a few details about the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

"We're able to leave here feeling a lot more calm than what we did when we came in here," she said.

She described her son as an intelligent "fun loving young man", who was "very committed to his friends and family" and "had just found his place in the world".

Brendan had been accepted into the Australian Defence Force prior to his death, which had been a long-term dream.

 

"ALWAYS HAPPY": Brendan Vickery, who died in 2014 while swimming at the Island Quarry water hole in Byron Bay. Hamish Broome

After the tragedy in February 2014, Mrs Medew said she read about the litany of previous injuries at the site, which made her worried it might happen again.

"I didn't want somebody else to be injured or die as a result of the quarry not being maintained properly," Ms Medew said.

The inquest, held in Byron Bay Local Court, heard that nine people had been hospitalised as a result of leaping off the Island Quarry cliff, six with spinal fractures, in the three years before Brendan died.

While plans had been in motion to ensure adequate security fencing surrounded the waterhole since 2012, the 1.8m chain wire fence was not erected until after Brendan's death, due to various bureaucratic delays.

The site is now barred to public access except for 30-35 members of the Island Quarry Reserve Trust, which manages the land.

The Medews have proposed a recommendation to the coroner that the Trust now install a sign on the fence - close to where Brendan jumped - that specifically advises of the history of nine spinal injuries and a death at the site.

They have also recommended that a rock next to the fence line be moved so it can't be used by would-be swimmers to access to cliff edge.

Barristers for the Department of Industry (the ultimate owner of the land) and the Island Quarry Reserve Trust did not oppose the recommendations in their final submissions to the inquest.

But Department of Industry barrister Mr Pintos-Lopez told the court that in order to jump off the cliff now, one would already have to climb a fence and go past a sign which said: "restricted area, do not enter, keep out".

Mr Pintos-Lopez said any person there planning on jumping from the cliff "could have been in no doubt" that what they were doing was prohibited.

He said the Department of Industry "took every step" possible to ensure the site's safety once it became aware of the danger in 2011, and "the nature of the assistance goes beyond what the department would ordinarily have done".

Lawyer for the Island Quarry Reserve Trust, Geoff Radburn, said Shane Rennie, the chair of the IQ Reserve Trust since 1998, had taken the issue of fencing up with the department "immediately" after learning of the safety issues at the site.

This included pushing for more fencing, improved signage, and taking personal action to contact backpacker hostels and social media sites to stop advertising the quarry as a swimming spot.

Since then, the number of trespassers had fallen to "almost zero". 

Acting State Coroner Teresa O'Sullivan will hand down her findings on April 11, via video link from Glebe Coroner's Court in Sydney. 



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