At the height of the ongoing flood disaster that has devastated regions in Queensland and NSW, Jim Ferguson, an SES Controller at Queensland’s Logan City Council, got a call at 3 AM on March 31. A family—a mother, her two children, a grandfather and two husky dogs—were trapped on the roof of their house in Luscombe on the Gold Coast and floodwater was fast rising around them.
Jumping in an SES flood boat, Ferguson and crew members Claire Browning and Chris Holloway headed down the flood-swollen Albert River towards the inundated house.
“The current was so huge it was washing everything away,” Ferguson, 55, tells WHO. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”
Arriving at the house, “We pulled up alongside the verandah of the second storey where the bedroom was,” says the father of three. “I shimmied over the verandah onto the awning and crawled on my hands and knees, and I was smack bang on them.
“I had a quick chat to Mum to calm her down. We decided to take the 6-year-old girl first. I then went back and told the mum she was safe and then took the boy, I think he was 10 or 12 years of age.”
Once the kids and their mum were on the boat, the crew faced a unique problem. “We then had to convince the granddad to come because he had his huskies and didn’t want to leave them. It’s not SES policy to take animals on the flood boats.”
But they made an exception, agreeing to bring the two pets onto the vessel.
Once all were on board, “We broke away from the house and went over the bank, offloaded them and hugged and thanked each other,” says Ferguson. “They were relieved they were on dry land again. The family went down the stream to some neighbours.”
About 10 minutes later, Ferguson heard a crack. “We thought it was a tree but it was the house—it had sunk 2, 3 feet into the water and bobbed back up again and then sunk and went downstream,” he says. “It hit the house next door, cartwheeled, hit tree after tree, a telegraph pole and then destroyed itself. So we just sat there and had a cry, went through the what-if scenarios: What if I had dropped one of them? What if we were 10 minutes later? Ninety-five per cent chance they would have died.”
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