The heartbroken mother of a professional water skier who died in a watersports competition in Victoria had pleaded with her son to finish the race safely.
Truck driver Luke Wentworth, aged in his 40s, died after suffering catastrophic injuries in the first hour of Southern 80 in Moama on Sunday morning.
The world-famous ski event started at 9am but was canceled at 10am after Wentworth fell into the Murray River between Echuca and Moama.
It is understood the speedboat towing Mr Wentworth was traveling at high speed when it turned a sharp bend, sending Mr Wentworth into a tree.
Gassa Ski Race Team, owned by Mr. Wentworth, shared photos of the team preparing for the Southern 80 in the days leading up to the event.
Mr Wentworth’s mother Annie shared a disturbing warning beneath the post.
Luke Wentworth (pictured), aged in his 40s, died during the Southern 80 water skiing event on Sunday morning.
It is understood the speedboat towing Mr Wentworth (pictured) was traveling at high speed when it turned a sharp bend, sending Mr Wentworth into a tree.
“Please reach the finish line in one piece,” he wrote.
Another of Gassa’s teammates responded to the worried mother and promised to “take care” of Mr Wentworth, adding that the team’s main goal was simply to finish the race.
Ms. Wentworth responded that she had hoped to accompany the team, but was likely unable to attend due to her plans to fly to Vietnam on Tuesday.
The Facebook post has since been removed from the social media platform.
Mr Wentworth’s devastated sister Bree McNair confirmed his death “with a very heavy heart and deep sadness” in a post on her team page on Sunday night.
“Our family is absolutely devastated and trying to come to terms with the sudden and tragic loss of our beloved son, brother, brother-in-law and uncle,” he wrote.
“Our hearts are broken not only for our family but for the entire Gassa Ski racing team and we ask for your privacy and understanding at this very emotional and difficult time.”
Friends have remembered Mr Wentworth as “beautiful”, “generous” and an “amazing guy”.
Mr Wentworth’s friend Kane Maskell described him as “a great friend to many”.
“He was a very peaceful and kind-hearted guy. He spent his time doing what he loved,” he said.
‘I once told him that I was crazy about (skiing) and that I felt like it was like trying to hang on to a rocket with a piece of rope tied to it.
“He replied, ‘I love it and I’ve wanted to do it since I was a kid.’
Mr Wentworth’s mother (pictured) had urged him to return from the race “in one piece”.
Police confirmed that they are investigating the fatal incident (pictured, officers at the scene of the accident)
The Southern 80 is regarded as one of the biggest water skiing events in the world, with contenders traveling from across Australia and from New Zealand, Great Britain and the United States.
Tens of thousands of attendees and participants flocked to Moama and Eucha with events taking place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
However, Southern 80 organizers canceled the weekend’s festivities after Wentworth could not be revived on Sunday morning.
He was the seventh person to die during the event since 1987.
In recent years, David Morabito, 50, from New South Wales, was knocked unconscious from the Murray in 2017 after his speedboat capsized during the race.
In 2010, a 41-year-old Melbourne man died after he and another skier collided during a race.
Another New South Wales man, aged 38, died at the 2006 event after falling from the sky at high speed and suffering fatal head injuries during practice.
Moama Water Sports Club president Steve Shipp confirmed the club is co-operating with NSW Police and NSW Shipping.
“As a ski racing family, we are here to support the affected family and team members, as well as the ski racing community at large, at this terribly sad time,” Shipp said.
Wentworth (above right with his Gassa teammates) has been remembered as an “amazing guy.”
Moama Police Chief Inspector Paul Haggett confirmed police are investigating the fatal incident.
“This will affect the community for months to come, long after everyone has gone home,” he said.
Investigators asked anyone who captured images or photographs of the incident to contact police.