Floodwaters take life
Wednesday, 23rd September, 2020
By Craig Brealey
A Broken Hill man died after his four-wheel drive was swept from a dirt road and into a creek by floodwater on Sunday.
A day earlier a family of four had a narrow escape when their vehicle suffered a similar fate.
The fatal accident occurred about 5am on Sunday when the 64-year-old man was driving his Mitsubishi Triton utility on Netley Road, about 90km south-west of the city, police said yesterday.
They said he and his passenger, a 37-year-old man, managed to get out of the vehicle and were trying to swim to safety when the driver fell unconscious.
His companion hauled him to dry land but, police said, he died at the scene.
The police were alerted in a phone call from Netley Station and recovered the body. The passenger was taken to hospital with minor injuries and the vehicle was pulled from the creek on Monday.
The circumstances surrounding the incident are being investigated by police who will prepare a report for the Coroner. They are also appealing for information from the public.
Police said they wanted to know why the pair was travelling on flooded roads and why they were apparently driving towards Broken Hill from the South Australian border in the dark hours of the morning.
The explosive downpour of rain on Saturday also trapped a family on the Menindee road but, luckily for them, help was at hand.
They were about 10 kilometres from the city when their Toyota Hilux utility was swept off the road into a creek.
According to reports, emergency services in Broken Hill came out and found two of the grown-up children clinging to a tree in the waterway.
The parents were found in their vehicle which had been washed about 400 metres down the creek into a paddock.
None of them suffered any more than minor injuries.
The damage caused by Saturday’s torrential rain in Broken Hill attracted more calls for help than had been taken during the massive hailstorm of November 2016, said Lesley Harvey, the Volunteer Unit Commander of the Broken Hill SES.
“We follow the weather patterns so we were expecting a downpour but I think everybody was taken by surprise,” said Commander Harvey.
The heavens opened just after 11.30am and the calls started coming in almost immediately, she said.
Within an hour 30 to 40 millimetres fell, and 23 SES volunteers set to work in six teams; five in the field and one at headquarters in Talc Street.
“We responded to 105 calls and of those, four were flood rescues in Iodide and Blende streets, the Menindee road and the Tibooburra road.
“The water came up so quickly in town, and out of town and there were extra people on the roads, and lots of tourists.
“The majority were sensible and cautious; there were probably more people in town driving through the floodwater.”
Commander Harvey said the SES always advised motorists to find higher ground and wait during a flood.
“It’s not just the speed of the current and the height but that you don’t know what is in the water.
“Also, you create waves and that’s what caused a lot of the flooding of businesses in town.
“The water was already high enough and the traffic pushed the water into the shops.”
She said the unwanted traffic was a nuisance, but understood why some people would want to get out for a look and take photographs.
“It is such a rare phenomenon but in an emergency response we do ask people to stay out of the floodwaters.”
Most of the shops flooded were in Argent and Oxide streets, said Commander Harvey.
“Damage to houses was also pretty widespread. A lot of people were affected in some way.
“Ninety per cent of our jobs was sandbagging, although a few trees came down in backyards.”
She said now that the floodwater had subsided the bush was looking nice and green.
“There are a lot of people in drought and it is great to see the photos of the how the country is looking now.”
Over the weekend, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, Tibooburra recorded 43mm of rain, Menindee 31 and White Cliffs 20.
On Sunday, Wilcannia had 43.8mm, its wettest September day in 20 years, the bureau said.