Hero tradie’s dramatic rescue saves a life
A MOTORIST was forced to use an axe to smash open a car window, to rescue a fellow driver who nearly drowned in a vehicle stuck in floodwaters south of Cairns.
Cairns electrician Sam Greenwood was on his way down the Gillies Highway about 3pm yesterday, when he found the bottom of the range road completely cut off by rising water.
Watching the spectacle with fellow motorists, they were surprised to see a white Toyota Rav 4 floating near the turn-off to Goldsborough Valley, heading towards the flooded Mulgrave River.
After one of the bystanders believed they could see the windscreen wipers on the vehicle still operating, Mr Greenwood dived into the water and swam towards the stricken SUV.
He was shocked to find the driver stuck inside, a man in his late-60s who appeared very close to drowning.
"He was sort of just breathing up near where your visor is - he had his head up there," he said.
"I freaked out, because it took me by surprise."
"I tried to bust open the window, but couldn't get through."
The young electrician swam back to his four-wheel drive and grabbed an axe, which he then used to smash open the Rav 4's window, and pulled the elderly motorist out.
"When I was smashing the window, I was sort of scared that he was going to go under, because he was on the opposite side of the car," he said.
"He had to squeeze over the seat to get to me."
The man had driven down the Gillies Range from Herberton trying get to Cairns Airport, however appeared to have misjudged the height of water over the road when he arrived at the bottom of the range.
Mr Greenwood gave the man, who was clearly embarrassed by the ordeal, a lift home to the Tablelands before continuing on his own way home via the Kuranda Range.
He said the man was very grateful for the rescue, offering to buy him dinner at a local pub.
"I still don't know how he was still inside," he said.
"If that vehicle wasn't floating, he would have been well and truly gone, poor fella."
Mr Greenwood said the incident was a clear reminder to motorists to heed warnings about floodwaters.
"You always see those warnings on social media, and I laugh because I do a lot of four-wheel driving and camping and I have crossed the odd bit of water, probably when shouldn't have," he said.
"But yeah, it's obviously not worth it.
"If it's flooded, don't floor it."