Tragedy only a drain away


Media Release

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The Port Douglas Fire Brigade say storm water drains are a potential minefield for children. IMAGE: Supplied.

EIGHT-year-old Richard Baird was happily playing with his brother and a couple of mates near a storm water drain in the Northern Territory when tragedy struck.

The wet season had just started in Palmerston and the four boys were out having ‘a bit of harmless fun’. 

They used a shopping trolley to wedge open a drain’s grate before Richard was swept more than half-a-kilometre away. For 15 minutes, emergency services tried frantically to keep his head above water as they attempted to free him. He would die in hospital the very next day.

It’s the exact scenario that gives Rory Kelliher nightmares, and it's why the Port Douglas Fire Brigade chief was disturbed at several reports last weekend of children playing near flooded drains.

“Parents need to be responsible for kids because the last thing emergency services want to be doing is recovering a dead child,” Kelliher said.

The Port Douglas region was lashed with more than 200mm of rain on Sunday, serving as a timely reminder of the potential risk to children caught out in flash flooding.

“It’s a very serious issue and one that needs addressing," Kelliher continued.

"There are just so many safety concerns surrounding kids playing near drains. Water can rush down from anywhere and much further away, it doesn’t even need to be raining at that location.

“When it floods all sorts of rubbish, broken glass and bottles can be flying around, and it’s possible for kids to be impaled or severely cut.

“Strainers can also have a devastating effect as kids can be pinned to them causing them to drown. Then there’s the wildlife moving around, and we all know crocodiles live within the lakes around Port Douglas.”

Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu, who also heads up the Douglas Local Disaster Management Group, said it was important for parents to know the movements of children during flooding.

She stressed the risks of drains, swollen creeks and rivers should be discussed with kids.

“Nobody wants to be the fun police, but the high risk of a tragedy occurring simply as a result of kids wanting to have a little bit of fun in the rain can be deadly serious,” Leu said.

“Not only that, but during flooding events the resources of our emergency services are already severely stretched trying to help out people who are in difficulty through no fault of their own.

“The last thing they need is to have to risk their own lives to try and save someone whose irresponsible behaviour has put them at risk.”

If you see anyone playing near drains contact the Port Douglas Police on (07) 4087 1999 or call Triple Zero (000) 

You can find more safety information here.

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