Minutes after SES worker Jim Ferguson pulled a mum, two kids, a grandad and two dogs to safety, the Gold Coast house where they’d been stranded gave an almighty crack and floated away.
The ‘what-ifs’ have plagued the Queensland SES worker and his two colleagues since they staged their first ever flood rescue in the northern Gold Coast suburb of Luscombe on Friday.
“What if we hadn’t got there when we did,” Mr Ferguson told AAP on Monday. “What if the house had gone while we were still tied up to it?”
These possibilities reduced Mr Ferguson, Chris Holloway and Claire Browning to tears as they sat in their rescue boat.
“All of us cried. The emotion just came over us,” he told AAP.
The trio are in no doubt they saved a family from serious injury or death.
The house – its pitched roof just visible above the water – is captured in a neighbour’s video smashing side-on into huge trees. It starts to break up.
Moments later it rams into two power poles. The front part of the house is sheared off. It becomes a trail of debris floating along the Albert River.
More than an hour before, Mr Ferguson and his colleagues were trying to get the rescue boat to the house.
“The water was raging. There were telegraph poles going past. We were ducking and weaving between trees and power lines,” he said.
“At one point, we were stopped dead in the water for three or four minutes because a fire hose got caught in the propeller and that was pretty difficult to clear in flood waters.”
When the crew finally reached the house, after an hour long battle, they tied up alongside a balcony outside a second story bedroom.
Mr Ferguson scrambled inside and found the grandfather calf-deep in water with his two dogs.
On the roof, he found the mother, her daughter – aged about five – and her son – aged about 10.
“Once we had the mum and kids onboard we had to convince the grandad to come,” he said.
“In the SES it’s humans first, animals second, but the grandad wasn’t coming unless the dogs did too.”
Ten minutes later the family and dogs were safe on the river bank. Then the house began to break up.
“There was a crack and a bang and away it went. We just sat in the boat and we discussed the what-ifs.”
This was the SES officers’ first ever rescue and the first time they had gone out in floodwaters.