Men clung to trees for almost two hours in raging river

Two men owe their lives to Bellingen SES crews and the emergency calls from local residents.
Two men owe their lives to Bellingen SES crews and the emergency calls from local residents.

RESIDENTS, who heard two men screaming for help as they clung for dear life in the raging Bellinger River, have told a raw and emotive story of a flood rescue that avoided certain tragedy.

Holding his weight against nine-metre-deep floodwaters, one man had his arms wrapped around a tree, while the other was entangled in a privet bush and just holding his head above water.

One of the men also held onto a dog for as long as he could, but eventually let it go.

"The situation started to get pretty desperate, they were screaming 'I'm gonna let go, I'm gonna let go', but we only realised how bad it really was when the guys turned up here the next day to thank us," Bellingen resident Soul Lavee said.

"What he told us was that he basically had to let his dog go and the other guy said he was gonna let go because he basically got too tired and was exhausted and they said to each other 'if you let go I'll let go'."

Mr Lavee was one of the residents living next door to the Old Bellingen Butter Factory who called 000 on Friday night.

The men found themselves in the life threatening situation after ignoring a road closed sign.

They were forced to abandon the submerged 4WD after it washed off the road and was swirled around in a fast-moving eddy.

After emergency services pinpointed the location, Bellingen State Emergency Service volunteers performed a swift-water rescue.

"It's believed they were carried along by the water and the car went nose first into a culvert," SES controller Toby Cuthel said.

"Leaving the vehicle the men were then washed away and are very, very lucky not to have drowned.

Donna Verrall said it was fortunate the SES crews responded as there was no way a rescue could be performed from the bank.

"Three of us entered floodwaters, all up to our armpits in floodwaters moving very fast," Ms Verrall said.

"We pulled back due to the fact there would have been three more rescues had we tried to rescue these people ourselves."

Topics:  bellinger river flooding rescue

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