Donna Rice and her 13-year-old son Jordan Rice died on January 10 when they were swept off the roof of their car at a major intersection in Toowoomba. Her other son was rescued by a passer by who risked his life to do so, and saw them swept away before he could reach them again. Jordan is seen as a hero for asking that his younger brother be rescued first.
Recordings of emergency calls have been played to the flood inquiry today and reveal that when she called the operator berated her, demanding why she had driven into flood water:
Ms Rice was heard telling the operator: "I'm stuck and the water is just about ready to come up the door."
The operator in the communications centre of the Toowoomba police station replies: "Why did you drive through floodwater?"
A distressed Ms Rice replies, "It wasn't this bad then," to which Senior Constable Wheeler replies, "Yeah, well".
Senior Constable Wheeler asks her the model of the car but her safety was not inquired after.
After exchanging details and requesting a tow-truck, the operator tells her he is getting a million calls and finishes the call by saying: "You shouldn't have driven through in the first place."
The flood that hit essentially came down as a wall of water with little warning. A girl was told by her employer to get out before it was too late. She got into her car and it was picked up and carried off. On being washed against an embankment, a guy raced down and grabbed her by her ponytail and dragged her out the window just as the car was washed away.
There has been some stupidity with people driving into and getting stuck in floodwaters but there is a time and place for recrimination, and a desperate situation isn’t it.
Most of us old hands in the country have driven through many times safely but have been taught properly by parents from childhood. You have to know what you are doing and check it out first.
Unfortunately, these days there are a lot of ‘Toorak trekkers’ out there now who think they are indestructible in their 4WDs that have never been off the bitumen. There are also the blowins from cities settling into country areas who tend to think that if the local yobs can do it, how easy can it be?
These get into trouble and are an irritation. The police have demanded the right to arrest anybody who drives through floodwater, which is an over-reaction.
It is doubtful if the authorities could have done much for the lady and her child in this situation in any case. The whole thing happened so fast that only immediate action by people on the spot was going to be of much use. The cop probably misread the situation, but a bit more action and a bit less sanctimonious crap would have been better.