David Spiteri of Rosebank at the spot where his ride on mower overturned, taking him into the dam.
David Spiteri of Rosebank at the spot where his ride on mower overturned, taking him into the dam. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Ride-on gave him a dam close shave

ROSEBANK writer David Spiteri has a tale to tell after a life-threatening close call on his ride-on mower last week.

Mr Spiteri, 64, lives alone on his 2ha property, which he needs to mow at least once a week.

The patch he was mowing on Wednesday was a few metres from his dam.

He hadn't mowed in "maybe a month" because of wet weather, and the fast-growing setaria grass was already a metre high.

He wanted to cut it before the seed spread, and saw an opportunity after a dry night and a sunny morning.

"Because the grass was so long, when I got halfway around the dam I realised I didn't know where the edge of the dam was," Mr Spiteri said.

"I stopped and got off, went and had a look and thought 'I better start going up the hill here'."

"So I got back on the mower and headed up the hill, and that's when the back tyre started slipping."

Within a few terrifying seconds, the mower and Mr Spiteri slid back and flipped backwards into the water.

What first saved his life was the mower's roll-bar, which combined with the seatbelt meant he wasn't pinned or crushed.

Underwater and upside down, he initially panicked and awkwardly grabbed at the belt release button, failing to "pop" it.

"When I first pushed at it, I must have been pushing it the wrong way," he said.

"I thought 'Stop, calm down mate, don't panic'… I thought about that poor bugger at Ocean Shores who died in exactly the same circumstances. Then I just took one finger to go and feel for the release, found it, pushed it, and lo and behold; it clicked, and I swam to the surface."

Mr Spiteri reflected that while the seatbelt and roll-bar saved his life, if he hadn't been mowing so close to the dam in the wet conditions he could have avoided the accident altogether.

"I've been here 26 years - it's not as if I don't know the place. But that day, with the longer grass, it changed my perception of where I was in those conditions."

"But there's no doubt I made a mistake, and I'm lucky I didn't have to pay for it."


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