Young hero Jordan Rice, 13, insisted rescuers should take his 10-year-old brother, Blake, first. By the time his turn came, it was too late. It was a heroic gesture that cost him his life.
And it almost cost the life of one of the rescuers, Warren McErlean.
McErlean thought he got it wrong when he saw a water gauge on a street in Toowoomba rise 20 centimetres in 10 seconds on Monday afternoon. Five minutes later he was clinging to a pole, dodging cars and wheelie bins after he risked his life to try to save the Rice family.
While Blake was rescued, Jordan and his mother, Donna, 43, perished.
“When I first saw the car the water was up to the number plate,” McErlean, 37, a Toowoomba builder, told the Herald.
“I thought I would push it backwards but, by the time I walked 20 metres, it was up on the bonnet.”
McErlean grabbed a rope, tied one end to a post, the other around his waist and set out to rescue the woman and two boys but the fast-moving water swept him downstream.
Another rescuer, known only as Chris, pulled McErlean to safety before tying the rope to himself and approaching the car to grab Jordan. But Jordan wanted his brother to go first, so Chris took Blake, handing him to Mr McErlean before heading back to the car.
However, Jordan and his mother were washed away before the men were able to get back to them. By yesterday, Jordan’s name was among the top 10 most used terms on Twitter, as a wave of tweets hailed him as a “true hero” of the Queensland floods.