SIX people tried valiantly to rescue 63-year-old Dave Collins after he took a wrong turn on his mobility scooter and was swept away by floodwaters in the heart of Sarina.
Mr Collins, a keen woodworker who liked gardening, lived in a block of units next to the stormwater drain.
Described by neighbours as a friendly, chatty man who went up and down the footpaths several times a day, he was on his way home from Friday night drinks at his “local” when he accidentally missed the small footbridge over the drain and his scooter went across grass into the drain.
Rescuers struggled through chest-deep water, were cut by razor-sharp grass and cane and resorted to searching on a motorbike in an effort to save the man. They also got a garden hose to use as a makeshift rescue rope.
Karen Moss, who lives next door to the drain, said she was having a cuppa just before 10pm when she heard a splash in the drain and a faint cry for help.
“I jumped up and said: Is anyone there? I heard the cry again and I turned the
outside lights on and heard another cry. People from the other units came out and rang police.”
With her son, Jake, she went along the banks but the water was flowing so fast the cry for help was getting fainter and further away.
She then got her daughter Tenelle Moss and son-in-law Jason Seymour, who ride their motorbikes in the area and know it well.
The couple, with Vanessa Moss, ran through canefields and thick grass but realised they couldn’t get through and were being cut by the foliage. “My sister and I went that far and fast in the water that Vanessa was sick from exhaustion in the end,” Tenelle Moss said.
Tenelle, who was in tears, said it was upsetting to know they put in such an effort and tried so hard but still couldn’t save Mr Collins.
Vanessa Moss said: “We tried to save this man. We walked in water up to our chests and ran through cane. We even carried a garden hose through the cane.
“I feel horrible that we couldn’t get there in time. I hope his poor family knows we tried our hardest.”
Karen Moss said they had been looking at the water about an hour earlier and they always watched the height of it.
Mr Seymour got to the edge of the water and felt his gumboots sinking. At this stage he saw another person (Patrick Martin) searching on the other side.
Mr Martin had found the man and Mr Seymour jumped into the water so he could flow down towards him to help.
Mr Martin, who had been watching Friday night football, was alerted to the emergency by his barking dogs. He found the flag of the mobility scooter in the water.
“I got to the scooter and about 20 or 30 metres away I found him,” Mr Martin said.
“I dropped the torch and pulled him onto his back and tried to keep his head out of the water.
“We swam and dog-paddled him across the drain because there was no high ground to get to, it was all under water.
“We tried to support him while waiting for the swift rescue guys... ”
Mr Seymour started pumping the victim’s chest and they called for help to let emergency services know they’d found the missing man. Paramedics took over but Mr Collins could not be revived.
Tenelle Moss said: “It all seemed so surreal. You hear about cars being swept away but you just don’t think something like this could happen.
“We’ve barely slept overnight. It has been a shock,” she said.
Police are preparing a report on the incident for the coroner.
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