Elderly pair rescued by passerby after Murray River incident

Lucky escape: A passerby has been hailed as a lifesaver after rescuing two walkers from floodwaters in WA’s Peel region on Tuesday afternoon, after they got stranded attempting to cross a rain-bloated Murray River.
Lucky escape: A passerby has been hailed as a lifesaver after rescuing two walkers from floodwaters in WA’s Peel region on Tuesday afternoon, after they got stranded attempting to cross a rain-bloated Murray River.

A passerby has been hailed as a lifesaver after rescuing two walkers from floodwaters in WA’s Peel region on Tuesday afternoon, after they got stranded attempting to cross a rain-bloated Murray River.

The pair — a man in his 70s and woman in her 60s understood to be husband and wife — had been walking the Bibbulmun Track and planned to meet a family member near the corner of Driver Road and Howse Drive in Nanga Brook.

However, when they arrived they found floodwaters had caused the Murray River to rise and spill across the road, but set about wading across the causeway, eventually finding themselves stranded in the river and the man entangled in blackberry vines.

Dwellingup Police were alerted and sent to the walkers’ aid after they activated a personal locator beacon, while the family member the duo had arranged to meet, understood to be their son-in-law, also arrived and raised the alarm.

In a stroke of luck for the pair, forester Mark Lush had decided to swing past the crossing to check the water level on his way home from work on a plantation.

Mr Lush told WAtoday the waters were about 1.8m in the middle of the river, and he quickly set about freeing the pair — the man tangled in blackberry vines was by this point up to his shoulders in water.

"[The rescue] was probably about 45 minutes," Mr Lush said. "There was nobody else out there so I didn't have much choice."

Mr Lush had arrived from the east, but the son-in-law and St John Ambulance approached from the west, leaving 100m of flooded crossing between them.

After being directed around the crossing, the ambulance rushed the couple to Peel Health Campus with one of the police officers behind the wheel as ambulance crew provided emergency first aid.

Dwellingup Police Station officer-in-charge Sergeant Matt Fitzgerald said currents beneath the surface of floodwaters posed a danger, despite the water appearing calm on top.

“While on this occasion it was fortunate that a passerby came across the stranded pair when he did, the fact a personal locator beacon had been activated meant that emergency resources were on the way,” he said.

“In this particular case, given the location the incident occurred, we believe the passerby, who put himself in harm’s way to rescue the pair, saved two lives.

“Had he not been there at that time the stranded pair were in such a precarious situation we believe they could have lost their lives.”

Mr Lush said it was the last thing he'd expected to come across on his drive home from work. The local knows the area well, and drove past it regularly, including the day after the incident.

"I do know that it goes up and down quite quickly," he said.

"The husband's backpack was still out in the water [on Wednesday], still waist-deep.

"They were pretty lucky."

It is understood the pair were discharged from hospital on Wednesday afternoon.

WAtoday with Australian Associated Press