LISTEN: Daring rescue saves Ipswich family from flood waters

AN IPSWICH father has relived the night he thought he and his family were going to drown in floodwaters.

A B-Double truck dragged Donald Craigie, his son Donald Craigie, nephew Peter Johnson and friend Marilyn Swan, from the flooding Cunningham Hwy early on Friday morning, seconds after a torrent of water engulfed their car.

They were washed against the truck as the driver told them to hang on while he drove them out.

Don Craigie and Marilyn Swan of Springfield Lakes nearly drowned in flood waters on the Cunningham Highway at Kalbar.
LUCKY ESCAPE: Donald Craigie and Marilyn Swan of Springfield Lakes nearly drowned in flood waters. David Nielsen

He said he saw his "life flash before his eyes".

Mr Craigie, his family and friend were trapped at a roadblock at Aratula for eight hours on Thursday night, waiting for flood waters to recede.

Shortly after midnight, the road was opened and they continued their journey back to Ipswich, only to run into trouble less than 3km down the Cunningham Hwy.

"We drove through the Washpool Gully and not even three kilometres up around the corner we drove straight into flood waters," he said.


"When we first noticed, it was only a few inches, we tried to stop and reverse out, but our car became stuck. We tried to go forward to free ourselves at the same time a torrent of water came through, lifted our car from the north-bound side of the road to the south-bound side of the road and turned us 180 degrees to face oncoming traffic.

"It came pretty deep pretty quick and the water that flowed into it from up-stream spun the car around and started engulfing the car from the floor up.

"We drifted enough for a B-Double truck to come past. Within less than a minute, water came through the floor, it just gushed in and within that minute we were sitting in the car shoulder deep in water."

He said the weight of the car kept the wheels on the ground while water began flowing through the windows.

"The car was filling up rapidly. My friend got out the driver's side window and my nephew got out and they were immediately washed away," he said.

"My son got out the passenger side rear window and climbed onto the roof of the car. I was the last one out, my arm got caught in the seat belt. I was washed from the side around to the rear and instructed my son to take off his clothing to get rid of any weight and we got into the water and started swimming with the flood water diagonally to the last place we saw my friend and my nephew disappear."

Mr Craigie and his son were washed against the side of the truck where they found Ms Swan and Mr Johnson clung to the trailer.

"They floated by and they tried getting a grip. They called out to the driver and he saw them and stopped his truck so they wouldn't get washed under the wheels," he said.

"They stood between the prime mover and the trailer. Me and my son got washed up to the side of the same truck where we got a grip onto it as well and he told us to hang on and he pulled us out.

"The truck was having great difficulty travelling through the water, it was sucking that much air up through its air filters, it was blowing out the top of the stacks."

Once they reached dry land, Mr Craigie, Donald and Mr Johnson went back into the water to save two women whose car had also become trapped.

"I could hear people screaming and it was very faint, I made my way back to the water and I could hear it as plain as day, two ladies screaming for help. Me and my son and my nephew ventured in the water and got a lady out who was still sitting in the seat with her seatbelt on and another lady was sitting on the roof of the car. We walked out with them," he said.

Mr Craigie and his family were travelling back to Ipswich after celebrating his mother's birthday in Tamworth.

They ran into car troubles at Aratula, calling Ms Swan for help, but by the time she arrived and they turned back for Ipswich, the road had closed.

The car Mr Craigie was travelling in was among at least three to become trapped in the water.

They waited with no shoes, shirts or means of contact on the side of the road until a tow truck arrived at 7am the next day. Two passing motorists gave Donald, 18, and Mr Johnson, 20, shirts to wear.

"I was just thinking about getting everyone out and getting everyone to safety. I was panicking, adrenaline set and all I could think about was my son being on the roof and my friend and nephew being washed away," he said.

"One minuet we had eyes on them and the next minute they were gone. The sound form the water made it really hard to hear, we could not hear them screaming out or us screaming out for them.

"I'd hate to thin what would happen if the truck wasn't there. They could have got tangled up in the fence or swept under the bridge and got caught and drowned."

Mr Craigie, a truck driver, said he they had no intentions of driving into the flood water and by the time they realised what was happening, it was too late.

Having exhausted all other means of getting home, they knew they were in for a long night and was well aware of the "if it's flooded, forget it" message.

"We accepted the fact we were here for the night, under no circumstances would we have driven through flood water and when we did notice we tried to get to straight away," he said.

"Under no circumstances would I have put my friend, son or nephew in danger.

"We're still very much traumatised, to sit down and think what happened, it's unbelievable. You see it all the time on the news but you never think it could happen to you.

"Until you're actually caught in it and the adrenaline kicks in, apart form scary, it's an amazing feeling, you're doing anything and everything you can to get out of it and get your family to safety.

"If it's flooded, forget it, we had no intentions of driving though that road. It was scary, you could see your whole life flash before your eyes."

A Queensland Police spokesperson said while every effort was made to ensure the safety of motorists, it was physically impossible for the QPS to be stationed at every flooded road across the state in the lead up to, during and after a severe weather event.

"The QPS was consistent and frequent with its safety messaging in the lead to Tropical Cyclone Debbie in which the public was urged to steer clear of flood waters and to remember if it's flooded, forget it," the spokesperson said.

"We continue to urge motorists to use common sense and avoid driving through floodwaters as depth and flow can be deceptive and dangerous."

A Queensland Fire and Emergency Services spokesperson said QFES had no authority to close roads.