A rescue helicopter hovers over houses in Grantham, scouring for survivors who made it to the roofs of their homes. PHOTO: BERNARDETTE HALL
A rescue helicopter hovers over houses in Grantham, scouring for survivors who made it to the roofs of their homes. PHOTO: BERNARDETTE HALL

Woman fights for life, triple 0 operator 'really busy'

A MOTHER has told the Grantham flood inquiry she and her husband were clinging to their car in floodwater when a triple zero operator told her emergency services could not help them.

Helen Besley and her husband were trying to escape the rising water in their Ford Fairlane when she called triple zero.

But she said one "great wave" engulfed the car and they had to climb out the vehicle's windows.

Ms Besley was still on the phone to triple zero when she accidentally answered her second phone, which was her daughter calling.

She said her daughter had been traumatised by what she heard.

Ms Besley said after the triple zero operator said emergency services were "really, really busy" and they could not help, she screamed "fine, we'll just drown".

She said the operator had earlier asked her if they drove into the water, and she told him "no, we are trying to get out".

"That was quite traumatic," Ms Besley said.

"It was like a screaming match.

"And it was noisy screaming over the noise of the water."

She and her husband kept getting submerged in the floodwater.`

"It was like take a gasp of air and wait for a wave to go over, then take another gasp of air and wait for a wave to go over," Ms Besley said.

After holding on to one another for one-and-a-half hours, the pair let go out of sheer exhaustion.

Ms Besley dog-paddled to the wreckage of two big sheds on their property and climbed on top, but her husband was washed down a nearby creek.

He survived the flood.

The inquiry continues. 


11:30 AM Grantham flood victim tells: "I owe my life to my son"

A MAN broke down in tears as he told the Grantham flood inquiry how his son saved his life before being washed away in flood water.

Frank King gave evidence on the third day of the inquiry into the 10 January, 2011 Lockyer Valley flood which killed 12 people.

iPhone footage Mr King's adult son John captured of the Grantham flooding was shown during the inquiry.

The pair became trapped when they went to move their cars out of the floodwater.

John crawled on top of his vehicle, which was floating on the fast-running water, and tried to pull Mr King up as well.

Mr King, who was 66 at the time, said the car was too wet and he could not push himself off the ground to get on top of the car.

"I owe my life to my son," Mr King said as he choked up and his eyes watered.

"It was a life and death struggle and time stands still."

He said he was at the point of telling his son to let him go when a raft of rubbish broke up near him and he used it to climb onto the car's open window sill.

But the pair landed in the floodwater as the cars rolled over in the strong current.

Mr King said clean-looking water from Sandy Creek had combined with muddy water from a south-westerly direction.

Mr King was able to hold onto a tree, but John was washed away.

"The noise and the ferocity of the (floodwater) surges was hard to understand really," Mr King said.

"I was a reasonably fit person… (but) since that event my arms have never been the same."

Mr King was trapped for more than two hours before the water dropped to just over shoulder height and he could swim towards the road and climb out.

He said during that time a helicopter rescued some people from a nearby house roof but they could not see him through the trees.

Mr King said some of his clothes had been torn off in the floodwater and he had no shoes so he had to walk carefully around rubbish and debris to his home.

"And my son John came out to meet me," Mr King said as he broke down in tears.

"I had no idea whether he survived until then."

Mr King's wife and other son Thomas were also safe at their house.

John had swam home with his iPhone in his mouth to protect it.

But Mr King said the phone was damaged anyway and they were unable to view the footage until a year after the flood when they bought software to "reprocess" the video.

The inquiry will investigate the impact the natural and human-made landscape, including the Grantham sand quarry, had on the flood and how eyewitness accounts were handled.

The inquiry is expected to run for five weeks, with a report to be given to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk by August 31.