Australian, The, 18.01.2011, p3
JENNY Perry, her husband James and nine-year-old son Ted balanced on the roof of their car until the floodwaters at Helidon took them towards a powerline.
When the stricken family moved to avoid electrocution, the car lost buoyancy and sank, plunging them into the raging waters.
Mrs Perry survived by clinging to a tree, Ted was washed 2km downstream and clung to a cattle feeder. Mr Perry has not been seen since and is listed as missing.
Their plight was one of the most moving images of the flooding in the Lockyer Valley.
Yesterday, the two Queensland search-and-rescue workers who pulled Mrs Perry from the water spoke of the dramatic events.
Special operations officers Andrew Neil and Brad Mills rescued Mrs Perry at the beginning of a horrific 58-hour shift in which they pulled 15 people from rushing floodwaters at Grantham.
Mr Neil told The Australian they had heard on their radio that a car had been swept off the bridge over the Lockyer Creek at Helidon.
They happened to be nearby and within two minutes were on the scene and fully equipped for a swift water rescue.
“The car was a kilometre downstream. The people on the car weren’t in the full force of the current, but they were on the other side of the river from us,” Mr Neil said.
“I knew it was going to be a tough one. I realised they might not make it, but we had to have a crack at it.”
They contacted a Seven Network helicopter that was nearby and asked for a lift across the flooded creek. Mr Neil, who has 30 years’ experience in surf rescue, planned to take three life jackets and be dropped into the water next to the car. But by the time the helicopter landed to pick them up, and took off again, the car had disappeared. “We started low-level searching down the river. When we were coming back up I saw the lady clinging to a small bunch of trees in the river,” Mr Neil said.
By then the helicopter was running low on fuel so the men were dropped on to a small island, from where they swam to rescue Mrs Perry.“She could see us coming. We yelled to her and she said she could hang on. She was devastated, crying,” Mr Neil said.
A NSW Rural Fire Service helicopter and crew on standby at the Gold Coast was sent and picked them up 45 minutes later. The crew of that chopper continued looking for Mrs Perry’s son.
After 20 minutes, her son Ted was spotted 2km down the creek clinging to a piece of heavy farm machinery. NSW volunteer rural firefighter Kendall Thompson was winched from the helicopter to pick up Ted, who had an injured leg and was bleeding heavily.
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