Locals address claims mum was driving on closed road
A CAR towed from the murky Tweed River.
A soccer ball scuffed and muddy floating nearby.
A town in mourning and a husband and little girl stricken, their lives forever changed after an unimaginable accident.
But in the shadows of the tragedy are accusations that the road the family were travelling on was in fact closed in the wake of the floods - a claim vehemently denied by the town rallying around the surviving members of the King family.
Stephanie King died trying to save her children.
The mother-of-three was found holding one of her children in her arms when police divers pulled her body and the bodies of her two children Jacob, 7, and Ella-Jane, 11, from the sunken wreckage of their car Tuesday afternoon.
Her other daughter, eight-year-old Chloe May survived, having been freed by her mother and managing to make it to safety.
The large Hyundai people mover had veered off a mud and debris-strewn Dulguigan Rd in Tumbulgum, reports The Daily Telegraph, it flipped into the river, the family had little chance of survival.
They had been driving to the children's primary school to help with the clean-up following the floods.
Police said Tuesday that Stephanie had however managed to free her daughter, Chloe-May, who is now with her father Matthew Kabealo, after being discharged from Tweed Hospital on Monday night.
While locals are rallying around the family they are angry at police claims that Stephanie was driving on a closed road when she crashed.
After the tragedy, NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Jeff Loy said riverside Dulguigan Rd at Tumbulgum was covered in mud and debris from last week's devastating floods and was shut when the accident happened.
But upset Tweed locals have disputed this, saying the road was open, and accused police of portraying Ms King as reckless.
Sally Fraser, the best friend of Stephanie wrote on social media that the 43-year-old mum was an amazing mother.
"I'm glad I always told you: "You're such an amazing mum!" "She wrote in a heartbreaking tribute to her friend.
"And you'd smile…. Your ethics, your integrity. Your fierce loyalty to giving your children the very best. The lessons you were determined to teach them. To become good people. To become respectful.. "There's not enough like you. And they were beautiful. A real credit to you and Matt.
"Every birthday party for them was over the top, FUN and Awesome. A memento… "
She wrote that in school the children at Tumbulgum Primary School spoke of the tragedy.
"The school kids talked about the terrible tragedy in scripture today and they all prayed for Chloe May and dad. The whole nation is shocked at what's happened.. We all hear how you fought and everyone that knows you isn't surprised but it breaks our heart that little bit more. Deeply.
"It rips our hearts at how a vibrant, chatty, talkative, giver and connector like you has been taken so strangely. So unfairly. "
"Your mother… I cannot imagine her loss, after losing your dad just two weeks ago.. its beyond comprehension. I'm sure he was waiting for you with open arms. We know how much you were missing him."
She says :"I'm so glad we watched a movie together and laughed until we were hyperventilating. And I'm glad to have shared Intimo with you and glad you loved it so much and it made you smile and gave you hope and bought us together. "
But she addresses the controversy over the closed road saying that she knows Stephanie would never put her children in danger.
"I hope people keep demanding the truth that the road was not closed. And understand that EVERY road in northern rivers has been muddy. Even buses were using that road. I knew immediately when i heard it mustn't have been closed because i know for a fact you would never EVER put your kids in harms way. You were passionate about that after we aquaplaned up the hill last year.
"Everyone will take care of Chloe May. Every strong and purposeful, passionate and loving woman in your life will treat her like gold. Because she takes after you. And you were worth more than rubies. Rest easy beautiful smiling lady x"
Yesterday police backed away from claims the road was closed.
"We're not putting any blame on the mother," Tweed-Byron police Superintendent Wayne Starling said.
"There are barricades further up (the road) but they weren't on the roadway last night."
Tweed Shire Council general manager Troy Green told The Australian: "The police are confused because the situation was changing by the minute. Dulguigan Road was covered in water during the main flood event. The road closure sign was on Terranora Road, a road that joins onto Dulguigan road.
"When the waters came down on Dulguigan Road, it was accessible by car, it was passable and people were driving on it. I can understand why the police thought it was closed."
A GoFundMe page to help the family has been set up.
This article originally appeared on Kidspot and has been reproduced here with permission.