A devastated friend who watched in horror as a father and son drowned at a popular waterfall has opened up about the horror ordeal.
Sisira Gajanayake, 59, and his son, Themiya Gajanayake, 21, were both pulled from the water and unresponsive at the Crystal Cascade pool, about 20km west of Cairns in the far north of Queensland, around 5pm on Tuesday.
Sisira, a bus driver from Dandenong east of Melbourne, tragically died on the spot while Themiya was rushed to hospital, but could not be brought back to life.
Family friend Nakula Premaratine said the tragedy came as circumstances changed rapidly.
“We all went for a swim and then all of a sudden the water level went up and his son jumped in to save him,” he told 9News.
“Unfortunately, they were both beyond saving.”
Father Sisira Gajanayake (pictured left) and son Themiya Gajanayake (pictured right) both died after being pulled unconscious from a popular swimming spot in Queensland
Mr Premaratine was a work friend of Sisira’s at the Ventura bus company in Melbourne and they were part of a group with two other colleagues who had all taken their families on the trip.
Sisira was described by Mr. Premaratine as a ‘very kind-hearted person’.
“He (always) helped everyone,” he said.
“It’s a very big shock to the Sri Lankan community.”
Don Ranawaka, another of Sisira’s colleagues, said just hours before the tragedy that the Gajanayakes had taken a family photo with the proud father, mother and their three children.
“The last picture they took as a family, they sent around noon,” he said.
Mr Ranawaka described Sisira as a ‘very good colleague and very friendly to everyone’.
“We were a very nice, kind gentleman. A very popular man. Still no one can believe this happened,” Mr Ranawaka said.
“Even the son is a very remarkable fellow, just 21.”
Mr Ranawaka said the family were still in Queensland, waiting for the coroner’s report before they could take the couple to Victoria.
Just hours before the tragedy, Sisira Gajanayake (center right) posed with his family for this happy holiday photo
Tributes to the father and son poured in on Facebook.
Jude Fernando described Mr. Gajanayake as “one of the most beautiful, loving brothers for nearly 40 years.”
Heard very shocking news last night. Kind-hearted and loving people have gone too soon. May the lovely friend and lovely son reach Nibbana,” Fernando posted on Facebook.
Friend Jagath Balage said the sudden death was “very sad”.
‘Dear brother Sisira. The sudden passing of you and your beloved son is very sad for us, but brother, farewell to you and your son,” Mr. Balage wrote.
Ventura Busbedrijf said Sisira, who had worked there for eight years, was a “dearly loved” man.
“We are deeply saddened to lose such a lovely member of the Ventura bus driver team. Sisira has worked for Ventura as a professional driver for over eight years and is well loved by our Sri Lankan worker community,” said Ventura Director Andrew Cornwall.
Emergency services were on the scene around 5pm on Tuesday (pictured, Queensland ambulance crew on scene)
The two men were pulled unconscious from the water at Crystal Cascade Waterfall, about 12 miles west of Cairns
“Our thoughts are with Sisira’s family and his Melbourne colleagues that we were on holiday with Sisira in Cairns at the time of this terrible incident.”
Queensland Police said officers were called to the swimming spot in Lamb Range on Tuesday after receiving reports of two men struggling to get out of the water.
Their deaths are not considered suspicious.
A Queensland Ambulance spokesman said a woman was being treated for emotional problems before being taken to Cairns Hospital in stable condition.
Queensland Police said a report would be prepared for the coroner.