Grantham family missing 3 members
GRANTHAM residents Darren and Michelle Keep’s harrowing story of survival will replay in their minds for the rest of their lives, writes Stuart Cumming.
Mr Keep’s mother, Pauline Magner, his 21-month-old-niece, Jessica Keep, and his sister-in-law’s mother, Dawn Radke, have not been seen since they were swept away in Monday’s torrent, which levelled the town.
Mr and Mrs Keep were in their Citrus Street home with their son, Brendan Keep, daughter Natasha Long and her husband, Brad Long, when they were alerted to a fast-approaching wall of water by Grantham residents Rob and Jimmy Wilkins.
“It was about 3.30 when we found out from Rob the water was coming,” Mr Keep said.
“We weren’t expecting much so I told the family to get their cars to higher ground.”
Mr Keep stayed inside to start moving things off the carpet while his wife, son, daughter and son-in-law went to move their cars.
It was as his family were moving their cars that the severity of the flood started to become apparent.
“We looked across the paddock and there was just a wave of water coming,” Mrs Long said.
They were swept up within minutes as they tried to get back to their home.
“Rob and Jimmy told us to get to the railway line because it was higher ground,” Mrs Keep said.
All four of them were able to cling to a nearby fence. “Rob had launched his boat and was able to come over and pick up Brendan and Michelle,” Mr Long said.
The Wilkins brothers headed for the nearby railway track, but were stopped when the propeller hit a large log.
Luckily, they had enough momentum to reach the exposed railway line.
Meanwhile, Mr and Mrs Long let go of the fence and floated in the torrent of debris.
They moved diagonally across the flow for about 100 metres until they ended up in long grass and “all of a sudden someone pulled us out”.
With all four now on the track, they fled with other residents along the line towards Grantham State School.
“When we got to the school, we collapsed and cried for dad because we thought we had lost him,” Mrs Long said.
It wasn’t until about 11.30pm that they learnt of each other’s survival.
Meanwhile, Mr Keep was going through his own terrifying ordeal.
Having remained inside it was a matter of minutes before water was banking up against the sliding glass doors at the rear of his home.
“I could hear the doors groaning and then they exploded,” Mr Keep said. Water instantly filled his home to waist level.
He was sucked out a window, climbed on to the roof and waited there for two hours while the water receded. He thought his family had made it to safety at his brother, Matthew’s, house.
“I was thinking everything was okay so I climbed back down,” he said.
Mr Keep was then confronted with an horrific sight.
“As the flood was going down I saw my son-in-law’s car emerging from the water,” he said.
“I thought he had died.
“I thought if Brad was dead then the rest of them were probably dead.”
He then walked through knee-deep water towards his brother’s house where he came across his brother, Matthew.
“When I met up with him he said we had lost mum and Jess and Dawn,” he said.
“I said ‘what do you mean you lost them’.”
“He said ‘they are dead’.”