Kids saved from flash floods
A MULLUMBIMBY family of four are lucky to be alive after being swept off a causeway in torrential rain at Upper Wilson Creek late on Sunday night.
In a dramatic rescue spanning several hours, two young children aged four and six were eventually pulled to safety from the family's late-model Mitsubishi Outlander, precariously lodged on rocks 50 metres downstream from the crossing.
Emergency services raced to the accident scene around midnight, but could not cross the first causeway downstream from the incident due to the treacherous torrent.
In what has been described as a heroic effort, local resident Jason Carabash assisted crews by securing a line across the causeway so that two Brunswick Valley Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA) workers and a police officer could cross carrying their equipment.
In conditions described by VRA crew members Chris Foster and Tony Collins as pitch black, freezing cold and deafeningly loud, Mr Carabash led them to the vehicle, which by then was wedged in a fast current three metres from the bank with water flowing over the windscreen.
Mr Carabash helped the rescuers secure ropes to the vehicle and Mr Foster smashed through the sunroof.
They found the two children under a blanket in the rear of the semi-submerged vehicle.
The remarkably calm six-year-old girl had got herself and her four-year-old brother out of their restraints and to a high and dry part of the vehicle. She said she ‘knew mummy had gone for help'.
The police officer, the VRA workers and Mr Carabash then formed a human chain to pull the children to safety.
Acting Northern Region Commander, Detective Superintendent Max Mitchell, praised the rescuers for their bravery and quick thinking.
“The senior constable, two VRA workers and a local resident worked together to ensure the incident didn't end in tragedy,” he said.
“Despite the raging floodwaters, they remained focused on the goal of getting the kids safely out of the vehicle and back into the arms of their traumatised mum.”
There are 13 creek crossings on the notorious Upper Wilson's Creek Road, which is renowned for flash flooding.
The family, residents of Upper Wilson's Creek for 12 years who asked not to be named, were attempting to get out ahead of the flood as the father was due to fly overseas yesterday.
After checking weather forecasts and local creek levels he thought it was safe.
“We've done this many times before – put ourselves on the other side of the creeks when we thought it was going to flood,” he said.
“I had driven in a couple of hours before and could see it was going to flood, but the water was still way down. I just think it was a different sort of flood. All the indicators, including our marker at home, were totally deceptive.
“I was following behind and as soon as I saw her car slide sideways I jammed on my handbrake, jumped out and jumped straight in the creek after them, which was probably not wise.
“I was going much faster than the car and as I passed my partner opened the door and I told her to get out.
“She was yelling ‘what about the kids!'. It was an extraordinarily difficult decision in a split second, but I grabbed her and pulled her out.
“Before we could do anything else the door slammed behind her, but it had filled the car with enough water to stop it washing away.
“I got my partner up on the bank so she could raise the alarm before I was washed away, God knows how far.
He spent the next hour battling his way back upstream in pitch blackness.
Another neighbour, Steve Thomas, assisted with the rescue, describing Mr Carabash's actions as heroic. “If you're ever in trouble he's the guy you want on your team,” he said.