“He did die doing what he loved best”: Mark and Peta Morrisey, parents of Jayden, who was killed after being struck by lightning. Photo: Max Mason-HubersFriends pay their respects to Jayden Morrissey
It was Saturday morning when Mark Morrissey received a text message with an image of the beaming smile of his second-oldest son, Jayden, hanging out with mates on the popular Port Stephens strip of sand called One Mile Beach.
By 4.15pm – and after he hadn’t heard from the 15-year-old how he was battling with a weekend of beach fun – Mr Morrissey sent his son a text message with the same line so many parents have worded before: “Are you still alive?”
But Jayden would have been too busy in the surf and on the sand with his mates to get straight back to his dad.
Within an hour, a team of six paramedics and a doctor would start a 70-minute battle to save the popular Thornton teenager’s life after he was struck by a lightning bolt from a storm that had silently rushed over the beach’s southern headland and caught more than 100 beachgoers with nowhere to run.
They lost the battle.
“He could have been five metres up the beach, it could have been any of the other kids that were standing alongside him,” Mr Morrissey said on Sunday.
“He did die doing what he loved best – he loved the beach – but he certainly had plenty more journeys in his life.
“He didn’t deserve this.”
Mr Morrissey had dropped his son, the second-oldest of four and a year 9 student at Francis Greenway High School, at One Mile Beach on Friday to enjoy a weekend with close friends.
They had had a laugh a minute at the caravan park on Friday night and returned to the beach first thing on Saturday morning as the heat started to warm up the sand.
They remained for most of the day before the storm cells drifted in without warning and caught everyone unaware.
Jayden and his friends were well clear of the water when the lightning struck.
“We need people to understand he was not in the water when the storm hit,” Mr Morrissey said.
“Police said there were more than 100 people on the beach.
“There was no warning of the storm, it came straight over the hill, they didn’t have time to react.
“They were where their towels were and [one of the adults in the group] turned around to call another two kids out of the water, and as he turned he saw Jayden drop to the ground holding his chest.”
Mr Morrissey, wife Peta, and three other sons, Brodi, 19, Jarryd, 11, and Logan, 8, have been left devastated.
But although they are searching for answers, they need their friends to know no one was to blame.
“[The adult] will never forgive himself and that is what we need people to understand – there is no blame to be levelled here, there is no hard feelings, it was just a freak accident,” Mr Morrissey said.
“I know people can never forgive themselves but you can’t wrap your kids up in cotton wool.
“If he wasn’t up there, he would have been at Nobbys – he would have been at the beach somewhere.”
Mr Morrissey said his son gave up rugby league several years ago to become a referee and was due to play in state touch football titles at Penrith this week.
Instead, his family will be facing the worst week imaginable.
“He never gave me an ounce of grief,” Mr Morrissey said.
“He was the best kid you could ever ask for.
“He had a cheeky grin, he was quick witted.
“All of the tributes on Facebook all said the same thing.”