26 September 2023

Parks staff workers awarded for bravery

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Seven staff members of Parks Victoria have received one of Australia’s top honours for their selfless acts of bravery during a severe flood at Wilsons Promontory in 2011.

Congratulating its recognised staff, Parks Victoria said Darren Hill, Melissa Moon, Baden Williams, Jack Schulz, Daniel Hudson, Steve Burns and Dave Bone were awarded the Australian Bravery Award Group Citation for their actions on the night of 22 March at the Tidal River campground.

Parks Victoria said the Group Citation was awarded by the Governor-General for a collective act of bravery, by a group of persons in extraordinary circumstances.

“On March 22, 2011, more than 200 people were camped at Tidal River enjoying a late summer trip to one of Parks Victoria’s most popular sites,” it said.

“A wet day was forecast, but nothing could prepare people for the downpour that hit the Prom.

“The rain simply didn’t stop, and only seemed to get heavier throughout the day.”

Parks Victoria said as the evening began to set in, water inundated the campground and it became clear that the situation was becoming serious.

It said Parks’ emergency response was activated and people in remote locations were warned about the situation and urged to leave the Park if they could.

“At around 9pm there was a sudden, violent surge – likely caused by a landslip downriver,” Parks Victoria said.

“More than one metre of water streamed across the campsite, sending vehicles and debris everywhere.”

Parks Victoria said the rangers, led by Duty Officer, Darren Hill, worked together to evacuate visitors to higher ground, “but it was not easy”.

“At times, the water was above head height and desperate campers were scattered across the area,” it said.

Parks Victoria said cars and caravans were picked up by the force of the water and, by the following morning, the rainfall gauge at the campsite had recorded more than 377mm.

“But remarkably, thanks to the actions of the rangers, there was no loss of life,” it said.

Parks Victoria said the campsite had to be evacuated by air the following day as the Darby Road bridge – the only route into Tidal River – was washed out.

It said the ensuing airlift was the biggest in Australia since Cyclone Tracey in 1974, with more than 300 people rescued from Tidal River and the wider Wilsons Promontory National Park on a series of helicopter flights.

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