Dangers of Snatch Straps

Submitted: Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 17:40
ThreadID: 95933 Views:5277 Replies:11 FollowUps:9
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Many of us have visited Lorella Springs a one million acre outback station on the Gulf of Carpenteria.

I recently received some promo material encouraging people to visit. (I can thoroughly recommend the place.) Amongst the material was a reference and link to Rhett's accident. I followed the link and found yet another snatch strap mishap; they are dangerous bloody things. Have a look at this:

Lorella Springs Accident
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Reply By: The Landy - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 17:59

Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 17:59
Firstly, I’m glad the person involved continues to recover.

The strap was not the issue it appears. But the story does highlight that extreme care needs to be taken when using this type of equipment. On reading the detail, it appears the failing was to attach the chain back to itself with fencing wire, rather than a rated shackle. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I’m sure the lesson learned is to secure with rated shackles only, not fencing wire.

We are hoping to visit next year...

AnswerID: 487292

Reply By: Michael ( Moss Vale NSW) - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 18:28

Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 18:28
I guess in hindsight, a hole should have been made in the centre of the tread and the strap pushed through the hole and secured by a stick or something on the inside. A tow rope would be better than a snatch strap. Its hard to think of all situations but shows the importance of getting it right!! And he is lucky to be alive.... Michael

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Reply By: Member - John (Vic) - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 18:36

Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 18:36
Bloody awful injuries.
A very lucky man indeed, I wish him and the family all the best.

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AnswerID: 487299

Reply By: Member Brian (Gold Coast) - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 19:08

Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 19:08
Long time since I've posted on here, but this thread caught my attention.
Firstly, thankfully the gentleman in question is alive. That is the most important thing.

Secondly, snatch straps are designed to stretch and "snatch" a bogged vehicle. They aren't designed to be a tow rope. This strap did exactly what it was designed for.... it stretched and snatched.

Contrary to other opinions, the only really safe way to use a snatch strap to tow is to NOT use a snatch strap.

4WD Qld has a guideline document that explains their use.....

Snatch Strap Guidelines.

People have died from not using them properly..... Rhett Walker was extremely lucky to have survived. That is a fact. If anyone disagrees with what I have written, save your typing finger, I won't be listening.

AnswerID: 487302

Follow Up By: PJR (NSW) - Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 08:36

Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 08:36
I will answer you. You said the "only really safe way to use a snatch strap to tow is to NOT use a snatch strap". And then you point us at an official set of guidelines on how to use one and contradict yourself.

That's a bit hypocritical. Why bother saying anything at all.

You could also say the same about safe usage for chain saws, nail guns and jack hammers. And even screwdrivers. But if you use them properly then all is okay.

I will use and have used a snatch strap when appropriate and, even though I thought that I knew it all, I went and did a course. So did my wife.

Also I consider that it is terribly rude for someone to stick their nose into a conversation and, something radical or challenging and then to shoot through without giving those in the conversation a right of reply.

FollowupID: 762579

Follow Up By: Member - Matt M - Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 08:49

Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 08:49
I think the point was around using a snatch strap for towing vice snatching.
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Follow Up By: PJR (NSW) - Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 09:06

Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 09:06
You may well be true and I agree with you. But not a blanket statement like Not used at all.

I wonder about "never using a snatch strap to tow" as well. Lets say that I need to tow a small non 4wd buz box of a car that if a fly landed on it then the roof would cave in. I would consider using something soft. Like a snatch strap or section of rope that will stretch and take any sudden stress out of the tow. I think an extension strap may be a bit stiff as would a chain. What do you think?

FollowupID: 762588

Follow Up By: Member Brian (Gold Coast) - Sunday, Jun 03, 2012 at 07:36

Sunday, Jun 03, 2012 at 07:36

If you read the statement I made, I typed "the only really safe way to use a snatch strap to tow is to NOT use a snatch strap."

Use a snatch strap (within the guidelines) all you like. Just not for towing. They are not designed for that. If YOU decide to tow with it, good for you. And I genuinely wish you good luck! You might "tow" with one for 50 years, have nothing go wrong, and think nothing of it.

But it sounds to me that that is what happened with Rhett Walker. The one time that something goes awry, someone almost lost his life. He is lucky to have lived. This is the thing that I find strange, that people have been maimed or killed by using straps incorrectly, and yet there are people who will advocate that incorrect usage! The "incorrect" (for want of a better term...) use of snatch straps, shackles and tow/recovery points have led to many people being maimed and/or killed over the years. That is fact isn't it? Yes. It is. And I'm not sure that it couldn't happen to people when using a strap properly! They are dangerous items, to be treated with care, respect and, ideally, only used in the manner they were designed for.

I'm pleased to read that you and your wife have participated in a course. I have participated in courses as well and I am involved in our clubs Driver Awareness Program. Both the guidelines and the DAP (the DAP that is sanctioned by the Australian 4WD council) impress upon people the need to understand the dangers involved. Both do not condone the use of snatch straps as tow devices.

As an aside, contrary to my "not listening" bit, I have responded to your follow up simply because it appeared a thoughtfully written response rather than the diatribe that others on this and other forums tend to carry on with. A point of view with actually a point as it were........ The "diatribe" is one of the reasons I don't visit here much anymore.



FollowupID: 762741

Follow Up By: PJR (NSW) - Sunday, Jun 03, 2012 at 08:25

Sunday, Jun 03, 2012 at 08:25
Hi Brian

When I first saw your response I thought (excuse the term) "here comes a diatribe". But as usual I got it wrong. We seem to be on the same page.

I am sorry to say but the injuries were seldf inflicted because they did something terribly stupid. A hard lesson learnt in such a horrible manner.

I know what you mean by some members to forums. They can go on. I got my self into some of those "going on and on" runs because I tried to be
direct and to the point. But with the lack of comprehension around these days it backfired.

I only mentioned towing with a snatch strap because I would never let anyone tow my previous car (THE Kingswood) with anything stiff. Even to put a towel in the link was better than a stiff tow. Normal 2wd cars do not have the chassis or bodywork that can withstand the stresses of towing that 4wd's do (we hope). I agree, as you pointed out, that they are not for towing. But if you are remote and help is needed then you do the best that you can. If you do not have the proper bandage than a bit of your shirt will do to cover a wound. Something like that. But never on a regular basis and not with fencing wire as in the photo above.

Thanks for the response.


FollowupID: 762744

Follow Up By: Member Brian (Gold Coast) - Monday, Jun 04, 2012 at 14:24

Monday, Jun 04, 2012 at 14:24
Thanks for your response Phil, glad to read that we are on the same side of the fence!



FollowupID: 762873

Reply By: Member - Arsenal Phill - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 19:22

Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 19:22
Glad to hear that Rhett is ok. A marvelous job by all the rescue services. It amazes me how the whole system works in someones hour of need.

Have to say though, why would you use a snatch in this way??? The whole set up sounds Mickey Mouse to me. Snatch? Wire? Dragging???? Nothing to do with hindsight, you'd have to look at this and say its an accident waiting to happen. The first thing I'd think is that if the tyre got caught up on something, the first thing that is going to happen is that its going to be like a stone in a catapult.

Forward thinking and planing. Life is like a game of chess. You have to got think of all the angles, or at least cover as many of them as possible.
AnswerID: 487303

Follow Up By: Member - eighty matey - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 19:59

Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 19:59
The Walkers might have done that 100 times and nothing went wrong but the story shows it only has to go wrong once for a tragedy to occur.

I'm glad to hear Rhett is recovering but it would have been massively traumatic time when the accident happened. Especially being so far from anywhere.

FollowupID: 762540

Reply By: Bazooka - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 20:51

Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 20:51
Terrible incident but a salutary reminder. Have only used my strap once years ago to snatch another Patrol stuck on slippery ground. We were careful but I admit to having limited knowledge of potential dangers at the time, although I'm sure my offsider was the full bottle. Thanks to the Walkers for posting the pictures. A clear lesson for all of us. All the best Rhett.
AnswerID: 487312

Reply By: The Rambler( W.A.) - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 20:59

Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 20:59
Having met Rhett on two occasions at Lorella Springs I can tell you he deserves the best recovery possible as he is a most helpfull and pleasant person and does all he can to make a nice stay at the station which is a great place to visit.It is of no use harping on what should have been done to avoid the accident as I am sure Rhett more than anyone else knows where he or others went wrong.I wish him the best recovery possible and hope to catch up with him again at the station.
AnswerID: 487314

Reply By: Ron N - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 23:06

Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 23:06
Snatch straps are one of the most dangerous things ever invented, and must be used with exceptional care.

As an ex-contractor who learnt to drive heavy equipment in the days of Steel Wire Rope, we were taught early, the extreme danger of the vast amount of energy stored in a SWR under heavy tension.
When a SWR snaps, the damage it can do is unbelievable. A snatch strap stores more energy than a SWR because it stretches even more than a length of SWR.

There have been two fatal accidents in W.A. within the last 5 years involving snatch straps - and in both cases, the snatch strap didn't break - it was the items the strap was attached to, that broke.

The first involved a farmer SE of Wickepin, W.A. The young farmer got a 4WD bogged, and went back to the house to fetch his wife and a second 4WD. The two vehicles were joined by the snatch strap.
The young farmer drove the bogged 4WD, and his wife drove the second 4WD that was doing the towing. He instructed his wife to back up and "gun it", to use the inherent stored energy in the snatch strap, to "pop" the bogged 4WD out.

The wife did as instructed, and as the snatch strap reached its maximum tension, the bolts holding the towbar to the wifes 4WD broke, and the energy stored in the snatch strap, hurled the towbar through the windscreen of the bogged 4WD, hitting the young farmer in the head, and killing him instantly.

In the second case, a bogged 4WD on a beach near Geraldton was being debogged by using a snatch strap. The snatch strap was thrown over the tow ball of the towing vehicle. A woman passenger was left sitting in the front passenger seat of the bogged 4WD.

The towing vehicle was backed up and gunned, and once again, as maximum snatch strap stretch was reached, the tow ball snapped, and it was flung back through the windscreen of the bogged 4WD, striking the woman passenger in the throat and causing fatal injuries.

There have been multiple events of this type, and many did not cause major injury - and possibly more similar events weren't even reported.

However, time and time again, the reports come in, that when using snatch straps to debog a vehicle - that the snatch strap hasn't failed - but the attachment points have.

As result, it's imperative that attachment points for snatch straps (each end) are secure enough to withstand a force, that is capable of stopping the towing vehicle in its tracks, at the maximum speed encountered when "gunning it".

There is much talk on 4WD forums about methods of damping the energy released when a snatch strap is released from it's attachment point.

There's little discussion about how that release can be accompanied by a very large piece of metal on the end of the snatch strap, that isn't going to be damped by anything placed over a snatch strap.

By all means use snatch straps - but be very aware of the strength of attachment points - and be very aware of the amount of energy capable of being stored in a snatch strap, that is being taken to its full stretch, by 2-1/2 or 3 tonnes of fast-moving 4WD.

AnswerID: 487329

Reply By: GT Campers - Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 10:11

Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 10:11
yep there have been a few fatals over east, too - and you're right, it's often the metal bit (towball, bull bar, socket extension or whatever has been used to attach or join straps) that flies through the air at 300+ KMH when something lets go

AnswerID: 487359

Reply By: rumpig - Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 19:01

Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 19:01
we met Rhett late last year when we stayed at Lorella Springs after that accident had occurred (he was actually packing up shop for the year the afternoon we arrived, we would have been one of their last visitors for the year). he's heeled remarkably well, and if he hadn't of told me what had happened to him when we were there, i wouldn't have believed it by looking at him. anyone that gets the chance to stay at Lorella should do so, a great place to stay and even better hospitallity IMHO.
AnswerID: 487391

Reply By: Yabbo - Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 20:19

Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 20:19
This has been a very sobering discussion. I too have stayed at Lorella and wish Rhett a speedy recovery. I am amazed at the photos as he seems to have great recuperative powers to look so good two weeks after the first distressing image.

I have also been interested in the comments about snatch straps. I have been involved in snatching vehicles a couple of times both as the snatcher and the snatchee and they scare me because of the forces involved. It is true that the real problem is failure of the points of attachment and the metal misiles that result when they fail. I was wondering would it be a good idea to attach a small (about a metre or so) length of rope between the loop in the snatch strap to another strong point on the car- say a convenient bit of the chassis. This bit of rope could be loosley hanging down and in the event of the anchor failing, thethers the potential misile to the car. Even if it it snaps in the process, it would still absorb a lot of the energy and the failure would be less lethal.
There is a lot of wisdom and experience on this forum. What do you think? Will this idea work?
AnswerID: 487401

Follow Up By: Yabbo - Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 20:27

Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 20:27
Sorry about the typos. Should be "missile" and "tethers". I really should preview before I post!
FollowupID: 762638

Follow Up By: Ron N - Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 21:11

Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 21:11
Yabbo - I don't see any major problem with your idea, except the "safety strap" would need to be tied up out of the way, so it didn't get caught up under the bogged vehicle.
A 3M or 4M webbing lifting sling would suffice admirably. These are readily available at fairly modest cost. You can even buy them off Fleabay.

Cheers - Ron.
FollowupID: 762644

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