Teenager feared drowned in floodwaters at Balranald in NSW's south-west

| 29.11,22. 12:15 AM |

Teenager feared drowned in floodwaters at Balranald in NSW's south-west

Image of Nungarra Kelly a 19-year-old Balranald man with a moustache
Nungarra Kelly, 19, was last seen on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River at Balranald.(Supplied: Nungarra's family)

The family of a teenager police believe has likely drowned in floodwater in south-west NSW say the experience has "broken" them.

Police said they do not believe 19-year-old Nungarra Kelly, who has been missing since Saturday, will be found alive.

The search for Mr Kelly began after a passer-by on the Swing Bridge over the Murrumbidgee River at Balranald saw a man dragged beneath the surface of the water.

A multi-agency search and recovery effort resumed this morning.

The river is currently in major flood at Balranald, with a peak expected from this weekend.

Acting Inspector for the Barrier Police Wayne Demery said it was believed the man spotted in floodwaters was Mr Kelly, who was last seen walking along the banks of the river a short time earlier.

A boat SES sits on the Murrumbidgee River there are plants in the foreground they are looking over the river
An SES boat near the Swing Bridge at Balranald on the Murrumbidgee River.(ABC Riverina: Shannon Corvo)

He said after two days of search and rescue, the operation had been reclassed as a search and recover mission.

"If we were going to locate him alive we would have done that in the first two days, with the resources we've applied to the search," he said.

"The belief is now that he is possibly still in the river."

Family 'in shock'

The family of 19-year-old Nungarra Kelly pictured on the edge of the Murrumbidgee River sitting around a picnic table
Nungarra Kelly's family have gathered on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River, where he was last seen.(ABC Riverina: Shannon Corvo)

Mr Kelly is a member of the Mutti Mutti community — the traditional owners of the Balranald area.

His family, who are holding a vigil on the banks of the river, described the last few days as "heart wrenching".

"For this to happen, we're in shock that we're here," said one of Mr Kelly's aunties, Bernadette Pappin.

"It's unbelievable that we're searching for him."

River scene with smoke, family sits in foreground SES operate out of a marquee
The SES have set up a search point on the banks of the river, where Nungarra's family has also gathered.(ABC Riverina: Shannon Corvo)

Another aunty, Tanya Charles said he was "one of kind" in the community.

"A lot of us are starting to come to terms now with what happened and it's such a tragic loss to all of us," she said.

(Left) A family member of Nungarra Kelly appears in a wheelchair, with 19-year-old Nungarra sitting on her right.
Nungarra Kelly, pictured with a family member, hasn't been seen since Saturday.(Supplied: Nungarra's family)

The family praised the emergency services response, which has included RFS helicopters, police boats and SES facilities.

The group said none of them would leave the river until Mr Kelly was found.

"As a family group we're devastated, it's broke us," Ms Pappin said.

"We all want to find Nungarra and bring him home, he needs to be home with his people."

Complicated flood search

The Murrumbidgee River at Balranald picture in Summer during a major flood with an SES boat patrolling the surface.
Fast-moving floodwater is complicating the search at Balranald.(ABC Riverina: Shannon Corvo)

Acting Inspector Demery said the search has been complicated by the huge volume of water coming down the river.

"Due to the floodwaters being so severe, at 50,000 megalitres a day, it's unsafe to put anyone into the water," he said.

He said it would be "an extended period of time" before divers would be able to enter the Murrumbidgee to assist in the recovery.

A river in major flood shown to left with a bridge passing over visible to right
A passer-by spotted a teenager in the river from the Swing Bridge at Balranald. (ABC Riverina/ Shannon Corvo)

State-wide flooding

The search was one of 100 operations undertaken by the NSW State Emergency Service in the last 24 hours, with 13 emergency flood warnings in place across the state.

Balranald is a key area of concern on the Murrumbidgee River for the SES, who have placed two streets under prepare to isolate warnings ahead of this weekend's expected peak.

In the Central West on the Lachlan River, a clean-up operation is underway at Condobolin, where dozens of properties have been assessed for flood damage.

The SES said it was waiting for the water to recede further at Euabalong before an evacuation order was lifted, and the next major flood peak was due at Hillston later this week.

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