Friday 24 November 2017

Bond for life between flood victim, 10, and his rescuer

Jonathan Pearlman

Three days ago, a stranger turned up on the back porch at the home of John Tyson, who lost his partner, Donna Rice, and their son, Jordan, in the Queensland floods.

Mr Tyson had never met the softly-spoken man who appeared at his door, but knew immediately who it was: one of two strangers -- the so-called Good Samaritans -- who had saved his youngest son, Blake, 10.

Yet it was never going to be an easy encounter. To the enduring horror of the two rescuers, after hauling Blake to safety they were unable to reach the mother and older boy before the pair were swept away by the torrents.

The death of 13-year-old Jordan has become one of the emblematic tales of Queensland's devastating floods: it quickly emerged that he had insisted that rescuers save his brother Blake before they came back for him.

The boys and their mother had been trapped in their car by the sudden flash flood that swept through the inland town of Toowoomba last Monday. A wall of water hit the streets without warning -- part of an "inland tsunami" that has ravaged the countryside and torn apart entire towns.

The two men who saved Blake were strangers to each other and to the family they helped. They roped themselves to a nearby post before braving the gushing torrents, filled with wreckage and debris.

Photographs taken by residents have now emerged, showing the two men clinging to a street sign as they desperately try to save the trapped family.

Warren McErlean decided he wanted to meet the father of the boy he had carried to safety, but was tormented by thoughts of the two who were swept away. It was not until 72 hours later, last Thursday, that he steeled himself to turn up unannounced at the Tyson house, and offer his condolences.

But in the end, it was he who was comforted by the man he had come to console.

As Blake sat watching television in the front room of the family's single-storey timber house, Mr Tyson said of his first encounter with his son's rescuer. "I knew he might be plagued by a few demons," he said. "In fact he was shattered by everything.

"I said that I knew he had done the best he could and that I could be mourning three. Apparently, he has taken it hard. If I can help him with it -- well, he helped me."

Neither man has been able to contact the other rescuer, whose name they do not know. But Mr McErlean said he had now bonded for life with Blake Tyson and his father.

The "inland tsunami" last Monday was up to 150 yards wide and tore through anything in its way. It ripped canyons into the land and swept up houses, cars and trucks around the riverways. As many as 28 people listed as missing may yet remain deep beneath the debris.

The capital of Queensland, Brisbane, was hit last Thursday, bringing the city to a standstill. Thousands of homes and businesses were lost, as riverside suburbs were left underwater. More than 100,000 homes had their power cut; police prowled on boats for looters (10 were arrested); galleries and libraries were forced to evacuate artworks and books.

Brisbane itself was so well prepared that the only fatality was a 24-year-old man who was dragged into a stormwater drain. But up river, in the Lockyer Valley, police and soldiers are still scouring the debris for bodies. And the entire town of Grantham has been declared a crime scene until the bodies have been retrieved.

© Telegraph

Sunday Independent

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