Katie and Brian Wickman, at Saturday’s fundraiser in Lowood. The Wickmans lost their son Jesse in the flood at Minden.
Katie and Brian Wickman, at Saturday’s fundraiser in Lowood. The Wickmans lost their son Jesse in the flood at Minden. Sarah Harvey

Community supports Wickman family

UNITED through grief, the Lowood community has shown its support for the family of drowned four-year-old Jesse Wickman.

Hundreds of people from across Queensland visited the rural community on Saturday to pay their respects to his family and raise more than $20,000 to help his parents through the tragedy.

Katie and Brian Wickman were evacuating their Minden home with sons, Jesse and seven-year-old Cody, on January 11 when tragedy struck.

The Wickmans were travelling in separate cars along Lowood-Minden Road when they became surrounded by rapidly rising floodwater.

Scrambling to the roof of their vehicles, the family called triple-O. Within minutes help arrived.

But after Mr Wickman and his two boys were taken to safety by State Emer- gency Services (SES) volunteers, things went horribly wrong.

“My boys were safe one minute and the next Jesse was gone,” Mr Wickman said. “The clip on his life-jacket just broke off. I couldn’t find him.”

Jesse’s body was later recovered.

Mr Wickman fought back tears as he recalled the tragedy, comforted by his wife through their time of grief.

“No-one is to blame for what happened. It was just a sheer accident. That’s all it was,” he said.

“They (SES) did every- thing right and helped us; we were all just in a really bad situation.”

The family found solace in the “overwhelming support” they received from their local community, particularly through the weekend’s fundraiser.

“We have made some pretty good friends in this community. We would give anything to have Jesse back, obviously, but we can’t thank the community enough for everything they have done. Thank you just isn’t enough,” Mrs Wickman said.

Neighbours of the Wickman family, Brett and Sharon Owen, also owners of Country Quality Meats Lowood, together with Daniel Partridge organised the event.

“We just wanted to help the family out any way we could. At the start it was just going to be a sausage sizzle, but then people started coming into the butcher and asking how they could help the family too,” Mr Partridge said.

“The whole community has been really supportive. Almost every business in Lowood has donated something or offered their help; it’s wonderful to see.

“We’ve had people from all over Australia, even people that don’t know the family come and help. We had one man, who wanted to remain anonymous, give the family a cheque for $5000. The community spirit is just amazing.”

The fundraiser, held in Lowood’s main street, also attracted country music singer Troy Cassar-Daley who sung a song in Jesse’s memory.

Mr and Mrs Wickman broke down in tears as they listened to the moving tribute.

“Jesse was a good kid, nothing fazed him. He did his own thing, but at the same time people gravitated towards him,” Mr Wickman said. “We will get through this together; we are just taking it day by day.”

Gold Coast mother Emma Elvin attended the fundraiser to meet the Wickmans after setting up a Facebook tribute for Jesse.

“I lost a daughter five years ago and her name was Jessie, so I know the pain the family is going through and wanted to help them,” Mrs Elvin said.

“I set up the tribute page so everyone, even those who live far away, can come together and post their condolences and offer support to the family.

“Losing a child is the hardest thing in the world, but to know there are people around you who support you really helps.”

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