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The heroes of the flood

Award recipients for service in the floods in and around Ipswich (from left) Brendon Weber, Senior Constable Jon Kirkman, Andrew Shortland , Cassandra Broadfoot, Andrew Kelly, Jon Klaebe, and Jim Runham SC AFSM OAM, and (pictured left) firefighters Andrew Neil (left) and Brad Mills.
Award recipients for service in the floods in and around Ipswich (from left) Brendon Weber, Senior Constable Jon Kirkman, Andrew Shortland , Cassandra Broadfoot, Andrew Kelly, Jon Klaebe, and Jim Runham SC AFSM OAM, and (pictured left) firefighters Andrew Neil (left) and Brad Mills. David Nielsen

THEY risked their own lives, battling furious walls of water, lethal debris and overwhelming fatigue to save the lives of those caught up in the floods of early 2011.

Ipswich's heroes have finally been officially recognised in an awards ceremony staged by The Royal Humane Society of Australia.

Nine Ipswich firefighters, seven members of the general public and one policeman accepted 17 of the 24 silver and bronze awards presented at Government House in Brisbane yesterday.

The annual awards are presented to those who have risked their lives to save others.

Many of the stories of bravery to come from Ipswich's Queensland Fire and Rescue Service officers after the disaster were as inspiring as they were spine-chilling.

Amid those heroic accounts of plucking desperate people from raging torrents were the stories of children and parents who were swept away, unable to be saved.

In some cases, firefighters were forced to put rescue plans on hold as they battled to save themselves from rising water.

Many worked consecutive days with little rest, performing dozens of swift-water rescues in several different locations.

QFRS Commissioner Lee Johnson said the medals were thoroughly deserved.

"Busy periods and the relentless summer of disasters in 2010/2011 showcased how highly trained our officers are," Mr Johnson said.

"Firefighters are there to help protect life and property in times of emergency, but they also do a lot of work behind the scenes to help ensure the safety of the community.

"Awards like these acknowledge their hard work and invaluable contribution."

Formed in 1874, the Royal Humane Society of Australasia aims to reward brave members of the community.

The society has presented more than 8000 awards in its 137-year history.

Station Officer Ian Bland and firefighter Brendan Ashby, Silver Medal

Mr Bland and Mr Ashby went to the aid of two adults and two children stuck in floodwater at the Minden crossroads on January 11, 2011.

The car was being held up by a fence, but was shifting. The firefighters' first attempt to access the vehicle was abandoned due to the force of the water.

On their second attempt, using a barbed wire fence to stabilise themselves, the pair somehow managed to pass lifejackets to the family, but the fence began to break and one child slid into the water.

Mr Bland dived in after him, eventually making it to an eddy.

Mr Ashby then entered the water with the second child.

As Mr Ashby was being pulled towards the eddy the young child became untethered and was swept away.

Mr Bland dived into the water in an effort to reach him, but the current was too strong and he was only just able to save himself.

The child was later found dead downstream.

The other three members of the family were saved.

Senior Firefighters Kerry Weir and Geoffrey Dixon, Silver Medal

Both firefighters were in a vehicle that was smashed by a wall of water at Murphy's Creek on January 10, 2011.

Mr Weir was able to reverse the vehicle away from a bridge, saving himself and two other men on board.

Later, Mr Dixon saved Mr Weir after he fell into fast-moving water during a rescue attempt. Later Mr Dixon fell into the water and Mr Weir saved him using a throw rope.

The pair later retrieved the body of a woman that was in a dangerous position.

Station Officer Mark Stephenson, Silver Medal

Mr Stephenson was deployed in the Murphy's Creek area to perform swift-water rescues.

During a search for five missing people he was washed 500m downstream before he could save himself.

He worked 17 hours straight co-ordinating rescues between Murphy's Creek, Grantham and Gatton, only to return to duty after only a five-hour break and conduct another 17 rescues in Ipswich.

Station Officer Phil Paff and Senior Firefighter Nathan Chadwick, Bronze Medal

Both were deployed at Murphy's Creek on January 10, 2011, to perform swift water rescues.

While there, a wall of water tore around them.

Mr Paff saved one family from a flooded house by gripping onto a barbed wire fence and letting go so that the torrent would sweep him close enough to reach with a rope.

During this rescue, he also saved one of his own men from drowning in a submerged drain.

Mr Paff and Mr Chadwick were involved in the rescue of a woman whose husband and daughter were swept away from a vehicle.

Senior Firefighter Mark Meier, Bronze Medal

Mr Meier was sent to Grantham, where he ran to three residences to warn people to evacuate.

He helped one man escape from rapidly rising water.

Later he warned eight carloads of sightseers away from the Lockyer Ck bridge at Gatton, where water had begun to rise over the bridge.

He was later deployed to Grantham, where he located several bodies and helped others to safety.

Station Officer Bradley Mills, Bronze Medal

Mr Mills and another firefighter, Andrew Neil, boarded a chopper to the Lockyer Valley where a couple and their child were sitting on the roof of a vehicle surrounded by fast-flowing water.

When they arrived they found a woman clinging to a tree.

They rescued the woman and later found the child.

The man was never located and is presumed dead.

Retiree Jim Runham, police officer Jonathan Kirkman, Brendon Weber, Andrew Shortland, Jonathan Klaebe, Frank Martin, Justin Martin, Cassie Broadfoot

Mr Runham and Mr Kirkman co-ordinated the rescue of 55 people with members of the Training Ship Ipswich Naval Cadet Unit, operating three powered boats, between January 12 and 15.

Among the rescued were four mothers who were close to or in the process of giving birth.

Topics:  award, bravery, flood, hero, medal, royal humane society




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