Ballina man, 74, drowns at culvert

A DELUGE of surface water at West Coraki claimed the life of a 74-year-old Ballina man on Wednesday morning after he tried to cross a flooded culvert on the Coraki-to-Ellangowan road.

Kevin Richards was driving his white Toyota Hilux ute at the time of the accident, travelling to his rural property near Ellangowan after filling up with fuel in Coraki.

At the crossing over Seelims Creek there were moving floodwaters at least waist deep over the road.

His body was found yesterday morning 300 metres downstream of the crossing by an SES floodboat crew about 9.30am.

Mr Richards’ ute is still missing, believed to be submerged in the creek under several metres of floodwaters.

Rescue authorities will have to wait for the water to subside before retrieving it.

Richmond Local Area Command duty officer, Inspector Scott Bingham, said police began searching for Mr Richards on Wednesday afternoon and that night called in the Careflight Rescue Helicopter to assist in a night search.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter at the time was transferring a patient to Brisbane, but was on scene yesterday from 7am, covering a search area of 50 square kilometres.

SES unit controller at Coraki, George Smart, said more than 300mm of rain fell over West Coraki and Codrington in 36 hours from Tuesday morning.

He said Seelims Creek was the only water course able to channel that run-off away from the area, into a drain that runs through Berminghams Flat and from there into the Richmond River.

While the river itself only experienced minor flooding, peaking around 4m on Wednesday night, the amount of surface run-off was significant.

“Motorists should exercise extreme caution when travelling in flood-affected areas,” he said.

“The SES advises you should never drive, ride or walk through floodwaters.”

A report will be prepared for the information of the New South Wales Coroner.

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