Adventurers from a local bushwalking group had hoped to spend ‘a lazy day’ trekking, swimming and floating down a canyon.
Instead, Saturday ended tragedy with the deaths of two of the group’s most recent members killed by a freak whirlpool – its second tragedy in just a few months.
Tributes continue to pour in for NSW Police Senior Constable and cancer survivor Kelly Foster, 39, who drowned.
She had tried to rescue a Chinese student, 24, who was sucked into a whirlpool at the Wollangambe Canyon, on Mount Wilson in the Blue Mountains.
The hero police officer dived into the raging waters after seeing the young woman’s inflatable lilo be sucked in by the whirlpool, tipping her off into the water.
But as Senior Constable Foster tried to pull the woman out, she too was sucked in by the powerful waters and disappeared underwater before both women’s bodies were found by police divers the next day.
Gavin Morom (left) uploaded this happy photo with his long-term partner NSW Police Senior Constable Kelly Foster (right) after she died on Saturday
Shattered police colleagues stationed at Lithgow have recommended Senior Constable Foster be considered for a posthumous bravery commendation.
Earlier in the day, Senior Constable Foster and her long-term partner Gavin Morom trekked the 2.5km from Mount Wilson to the Wollangambe River with other members from the Upper Blue Mountains Bushwalking Club.
The club lost had already lost another member after he fell off a cliff in September.
Mr Morom uploaded a loving tribute to his partner on Monday night by replacing his Facebook profile photo, which has been inundated with tributes and condolence messages.
The new photo shows the couple snuggled up together enjoying the outdoors in snowy conditions.
The couple bonded over their mutual love of adventuring and regularly went camping, hiking and on mountain bike rides throughout Australia
‘There are no words. A beautiful person and we are thinking of you,’ one friend commented.
Another added: ‘That’s a good one to hold onto, it shows a super happy couple.’
Senior Constable Foster and the unnamed international student who lived in Chiswick as among the newest members of the Upper Blue Mountains Bushwalking Club, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The club describes canyons on its website as ‘breathtaking places, beautiful, exciting and at the same time dangerous’.
‘This is a Blue Mountains classic! Come and join us on a lazy day floating or swimming down the Wollangambe at Mt Wilson,’ the club posted in the lead up to Saturday’s ill-fated trek.
‘There are long swims and rock scrambling below magnificent cliff walls. No abseils or ropes are involved. The day ends with a steep climb out and return to Mt Wilson.’
Senior Constable Kelly Foster (left) drowned while trying to save an international student who became stuck in raging waters in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, on Saturday. Senior Constable Foster had trekked to the picturesque spot with her boyfriend Gavin Morom (right)
Previous member Roy Barlow, 65, fell to his death in the Wolgan Valley on September 2, according to a fatal incident report published by the Australian Canyoning Association on Facebook.
The report described Mr Barlow as a popular and respected member of the Blue Mountains canyoning community who was experienced in setting and leading abseils.
Earlier on Saturday, Mr Morom posted about their trek on Strava, a popular adventurer at fitness social media app.
The couple bonded over their shared love of adventuring regularly went hiking, camping and on mountain bike rides throughout Australia.
The Blue Mountains, where Mr Morom grew up, was a regular visit for the pair in 2020, taking his 4WD on camping or day trips during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Senior Constable Foster only recently returned to the NSW Police Force after overcoming breast cancer and was stationed at Lithgow Police Station.
The heroic policewoman had no hesitation before she dived in to try to save the woman from the raging waters, with other witnesses then throwing a rope into the creek in a bid to save her.
Acting Police Commissioner Mal Lanyon said she always ‘put the needs of others before her own’.
Senior Constable Kelly Foster, 39, joined the NSW Police Force in 2010 and Acting NSW Police Commissioner Mal Lanyon said she always ‘put the needs of others before her own’
‘It’s a very sad time for the NSW Police Force and Kelly’s death is a loss to the whole community,’ Acting Commissioner Lanyon said in a statement.
‘To hear reports that Kelly was trying to help another woman when she died demonstrates her commitment to the community she served and the ability to put the needs of others before her own.
‘Kelly was a highly regarded and dedicated officer who will be sorely missed by colleagues across the force.
‘Her policing career was put on hold when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, however, her strength to survive this and return to work is another testament to her strength and resilience.
Mr Morom (right) had posted about his trek with Senior Constable Foster (left) on adventurers social media app Strava on Saturday. The policewoman only recently returned to the job after overcoming breast cancer
An international student, 24, was among a group swimming on inflatable lilos at the popular Wollangambe Canyon (pictured) when she was sucked into the whirlpool. Her body was recovered on Sunday, along with Senior Constable Foster’s
‘Above all, Kelly was a kind and loving daughter, sister and partner.’
The international student was among a group swimming in the picturesque spot when she was swept up in the water.
Police and ambulance crews rushed to the scene about 2.30pm but the pair were lost beneath the surface.
A search for their bodies resumed on Sunday morning, after it was suspended about 6pm on Saturday because of poor weather.
Members of Senior Constable Foster’s family came to the canyon to witness the search in the desperate hope she would be found alive.
One fellow policewoman who joined the force at the same time as Senior Constable Foster remembered her as a ‘selfless and compassionate’ person.
Emergency services rushed to the scene after the alarm was raised about 2.30pm on Saturday, but poor weather conditions meant a search had to be called off about 6pm. When it resumed on Sunday the bodies of the two women were located by NSW Police divers
Eight other members of the group who the international student was with were uninjured
It’s believed both women were canyoning in water only that can only be reached after hours of hiking through rough terrain
‘RIP my old Academy mate. Always a selfless and compassionate individual. You will now be remembered as a hero. I will treasure the memories of our good times in Goulburn,’ a former colleague wrote.
The canyon is believed to have been flooded due to recent heavy rainfall.
The other members of the group were uninjured and were assisted by police officers and paramedics.
A report will now be prepared for the coroner.
NSW Parks and Wildlife has since closed Wollangambe Canyon until further notice.
‘Recent heavy rains have caused water levels to rise and conditions in the canyon to change. A dangerous whirlpool has formed midway through the canyon,’ a statement read.