Homicide squad officers are still working to identify two other men and a woman they believe may be able to assist them.
Mr Smith’s grieving father, Mike, called radio station 3AW on Thursday morning to pay tribute to his son, who he said was a carpenter and gifted athlete.
Mike said that his son had just had dinner with his girlfriend on Wednesday night and they were getting into their car when a group of three or four men and a woman approached them.
He said the woman abused his son’s girlfriend using “all sorts of expletives”.
“He went to defend her and a bottle was broken, and in that fight he was stabbed in the heart and died fairly quickly,” he said through tears.
“I wanted to ring and talk about my boy. He was 26 … he had everything to live for. He was a go-getter, hard worker. He had a heart of gold, he would help anyone, anytime. He was a fantastic kid.
“He was just a great young man. He was a carpenter. I had to ring his boss last night and he was devastated. He was devastated because he looked upon him as his little brother.”
The man’s father said he wanted the people involved in Mr Smith’s death to be caught and charged, but no matter how long they serve in jail, it would “never be enough for me, no matter how long I live.”
“We’ve got a long, hard road ahead of us,” he told Nine News. “There won’t be a day where we don’t think about him, won’t be a day I don’t cry.”
While wiping away tears, Michelle Smith said her son was a “beautiful boy who was loving and would do anything for you”.
“When I needed him, he was here in a shot. I just love him and I miss him,” she told Nine News.
“Whoever did this, I hope you have regrets. How can you do that? You’re not human and you’ll get what you deserve.”
The emotional father said the family and Mr Smith’s girlfriend were “absolutely distraught.”
“I look at this year and think it couldn’t get any worse, but to find that out last night it really hit home. You hear stories … of people losing their loved ones to crimes and lives taken and you feel sorry for them and your life goes on and you don’t really know what the family are going through and I do.”
He said his son was a gifted runner. He wanted to work for himself and become a registered builder, and also wanted a family in the future.
“Those things are snuffed out in a matter of minutes,” he said.
Friends have paid tribute to Mr Smith online. “Rest in peace brother,” one wrote. “I’m lost for words.”
Chief Police Commissioner Shane Patton called on those responsible to come forward.
“We will identify those offenders, there is no doubt about that,” he said. “It won’t take long for us to scoop them up.”
A man who witnessed the tragedy returned to the scene on Thursday morning.
“I saw a group of people coming back from the beach. Someone was in the middle of it. There was some screeching beforehand, and then there was some screaming at the group and someone went down in the middle of the group,” the man told Nine News.
He said the people involved stuck around for a short time before they scattered.
“When all the police were here there seemed to be no real witnesses,” he said.
The man left flowers at the scene.
“He’s got a family and that family needs to know that strangers give a stuff about their child and it’s a day at the beach ends up with someone stabbed. It’s just ridiculous.”
Homicide detectives are still establishing the circumstances around the incident.
Anyone who witnessed the incident or with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.
Simone is a crime reporter for The Age. Most recently she covered breaking news for The Age, and before that for The Australian in Melbourne.
Ashleigh McMillan is a breaking news reporter at The Age. Got a story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org