The river swept away our children, parents tell

Submitted: Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 15:47
ThreadID: 7664 Views:4385 Replies:9 FollowUps:5
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The photo of the car they use is a new shiny Jeep
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October 7, 2003 - 12:46PM

The parents of two children swept to their deaths in a 4WD at a West Australian river crossing have told how the river looked like a millpond before their vehicle entered the water.

But they said beneath the surface the Blackwood River was a torrent, with the strong current instantly sweeping their vehicle backwards as the water rose above the jeep's bonnet.

Craig Anstey, 37, and his de facto wife Clare Smyth, 31, were speaking about their disastrous attempt to drive over a concrete river crossing platform at Jalbarragup, 300km south of Perth, on Friday night.

The couple managed to get free of the Jeep Cherokee but their children - Mr Anstey's seven-year-old son Jack and Ms Smyth's eight-year-old daughter Ashleigh Mungur - were trapped inside.

The two children were swept to their deaths when the 4WD sank and was washed downstream.

Mr Anstey told the West Australian newspaper he had crossed the river about six times in five years without incident, although the water level was higher on Friday night than it had been at the other times.

He said he had waded into the river before attempting the crossing, and had then walked up the riverbank and shone his spotlights onto the water to try to see the bottom.

Half way across the river, the water rose across the jeep's bonnet.

"Before I knew it, all of a sudden I am going backwards down the river," Mr Anstey told the newspaper.

Mr Anstey escaped underwater through the rolled-down driver's window. He was unable to open the doors to try to free the children.

"I could just see the rear lights of the car going down. I tried to swim towards it," he said.

"It was horrifying. I was counting the seconds in my head how long the kids were breathing."

Ms Smyth said the accident was a freak of nature.

"From our end (of the crossing) to the other end it looked like glass," she said.

"There was an undercurrent that there was no way we could have been aware of."

The youngsters' bodies were found by police divers on Saturday still inside the vehicle, which had been carried 50 metres downstream by the strong current.

Police had to use heavy-duty machinery, including bulldozers, to pull the jeep from the river.

Nannup Shire president Barbara Dunnet said yesterday the river crossing was meant only for summer use, to allow emergency vehicles access to the high fire-risk area in the event of a blaze.

She said the shire had tried to restrict access to the crossing but its efforts had been futile.

Council roads officials are conducting a full assessment of the crossing, before deciding its future.
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Reply By: koh - Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 16:36

Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 16:36
This has been on our local news channels since it happened, hard to fathom really, first thoughts were when I heard about it was, how irresponsible. But things don’t seem to be black and white.
I spoke so someone yesterday that knows the people as customers and said “Bloody tragic, not one for taking risks”

Something unforeseen went terribly wrong.

Sympathy to friends and families

William and Diane
AnswerID: 33013

Reply By: TonyY - Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 17:24

Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 17:24
Sure it looked like a millpond. It looked flat because it was deep, and because there was a smooth concrete surface underneath.

On the footage I saw, if you looked to each side of the crossing there was an obvious strong current swirling around the trees and rocks. They should be charged.
AnswerID: 33016

Follow Up By: Member - Geoff & Karen - Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 19:09

Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 19:09
Tony, god forbid this never happens to your family or friends, but things do happen for a reason, and I'm sure if this did happen to you, you wouldn't like people saying "they should be charged".
Think about it Tony, do you think he would have done it on purpose?????
Have a heart.........
KarenKind Regards
Karen & Geoff
(Happy holidaying)
FollowupID: 23599

Follow Up By: TonyY - Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 19:58

Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 19:58
Don't get me wrong, I realise that this is a horrible tragedy and the grief that those parents, and all their extended family and friends will be going through is something I would not wish on anybody. And no, I don't think he did it on purpose, but I do think he took a risk which borders on criminal. Is it any different to someone driving recklessly with a she'll be right attitude and having a fatal accident? If a family member is killed do we let them off because they are grieving?

I had nothing but sympathy for them until I saw their TV interview where all they seemed to be concerned about was convincing everyone that it wasn't their fault. Of course it was their fault. He claimed to be an experienced 4wder and claimed to know the crossing.

I know the crossing, and there is no way I would risk it with that volume of water, particularly with other people in the vehicle. (I believe whichever government body is responsible for the crossing should make sure it is closed (it used to have a boom gate) to protect people from themselves).
FollowupID: 23602

Reply By: Mark from Getaway Portable Refrigerator Hire - Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 19:04

Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 19:04
I don't know if driving into a river in pitch dark without walking through it totally first would be described as a "freak of nature".
Is this just a case of having a 4WD and believing that it is capable of all things?
It is so easy to blame people and each one of us has a view on this but at the end of the day the parents will have to live with their actions for the rest of their lives.

A very sad event.

AnswerID: 33023

Reply By: Rob from Cairns Offroad Training & Tours - Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 19:52

Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 19:52
I will be interested to see what the police do in this situation. Death by misadventure or accident? Culpable driving? There was a severe error of judgement made here by the driver. And 2 innocent children paid the ultimate price. I do not believe he walked the entire crossing. Once water is deeper than the floor of your vehicle it is no longer a vehicle it is a boat and obviously, if there is ANY current it will drift away. I agree this is a tragic event but there is a duty of care and resposibility that should have been realised.Cairns Offroad Training & Tours
AnswerID: 33030

Follow Up By: Truckster (Vic) - Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 20:57

Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 20:57
He could not of walked the river, not possible.

The current that was flowing would have taken him away..

Unless it did just come up before they crossed. It could have happened.

Dont judge until all facts are out in the open. (Not sayin you Rob! just in general.)
FollowupID: 23609

Reply By: Bonz (Vic) - Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 20:11

Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 20:11
..............He said he had waded into the river before attempting the crossing, and had then walked up the riverbank and shone his spotlights onto the water to try to see the bottom.


...............Half way across the river, the water rose across the jeep's bonnet.


............... "There was an undercurrent that there was no way we could have been aware of."


Absolute Tragedy, freak of nature - definitely notLaterally Literal
Seriously Cerebral
AnswerID: 33036

Reply By: Member - Cocka - Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 20:51

Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 20:51
I don't believe this forum will gain an iota of credibility by discussing this tragic event. Opinions are being based on reports from a newspapaer taken from shocked and emotional parents. At least wait until the authorities have examined fully, all of the circumstances and the coroner has bought down a finding, before you cast your stones.
We may in time all learn from such disasters but let none of us think that we are so perfect that we can't also make mistakes.
Two beautiful young children lost, put simply, it's an absolute tragedy.
My sympathies to all that are touched by their passing. Carpe Diem
AnswerID: 33043

Follow Up By: Truckster (Vic) - Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 20:59

Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 20:59
I agree.

Wait till everything is out in the open.. It may appear as though it was a bleep up but.... leave it at that I think.

FollowupID: 23610

Follow Up By: Member - Melissa - Wednesday, Oct 08, 2003 at 11:17

Wednesday, Oct 08, 2003 at 11:17
Well said! A terrible, terrible tradegy has occurred. It's natural when something like this happens to asks ourselves why or try to make sense of something horrible. But none of us know the full circumstances or what was going through the parents mind when they made the decision to undertake the crossing. It's the coroners job to find out...let's wait for the findings based on ALL the facts before we start finger pointing.

:o( MelissaPetrol 4.5L GU Patrol &
Camprite TL8 offroad camper
FollowupID: 23659

Reply By: Martyn (WA) - Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 22:25

Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003 at 22:25
I agree a very tragic event, again the kids paid the unltimate price, one thing that concerns me is that in the report it mentions that the Jeep rocked up at the crossing at 18:00 hrs and yet didn't attempt the crossing till 20:00 hrs, what happend in that two hours? Why would an experienced 4 w driver attempt a river crossing of about a meter in depth in the dark, this is one of the bits I don't understand, there is also mention of him getting so far realising he wasn't going to make it and try to reverse out, right. I suppoe the story will get expanded and all sorts of things will come out of this, I just hope we get to the real reason for such a tragic event and something happens that protects people from themselves in some cases, it was his / their choice to cross the river not the kids. So sad. My opinions as usual, plus some bits I've read. My condolences to the family.Keep the shiny side up
AnswerID: 33064

Reply By: Member - Luxoluk - Thursday, Oct 09, 2003 at 17:09

Thursday, Oct 09, 2003 at 17:09
Life has a tendancy to deal tragedies of this type from time to time. You just keep hoping it ain't gunna be yours but its always someone's loved ones. Forget who did what, and who is to blame. Your information sources are, at best, scant and the conclusions are therefore unwarranted. Have some regard for those suffering parents and their tragic loss and spare a thought for what could have been for those kids. Some experts on this forum are obviously infallible but I would suggest, IMHO of course, that they would be better served through a fuller appreciation of what a tenuous grip we all have on life and a hope that an error of judgement will never beset them.
AnswerID: 33254

Reply By: sean - Thursday, Oct 09, 2003 at 18:56

Thursday, Oct 09, 2003 at 18:56
Four people died in the territory last year to swollen rivers and others had lucky escapes. Three that died were young children. In the case of the children, the driver was completely not at fault and it was a tragedy beyond imagination.

I just hope that it does not happen to me


AnswerID: 33264

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