Heroes drag man from sinking car
AN ELDERLY man was fighting for his life in The Tweed Hospital last night after his vehicle ploughed into the waters of the southern boat harbour at Tweed Heads.
Dramatic scenes unfolded at the usually sleepy docks about 12.45pm when the 75-year-old Upper Mount Gravatt man's four-wheel-drive charged over the gutter and rock wall of a Coral Street car park.
The man's wife had exited the car moments before it careered into the water, and she could only watch in horror as the vehicle floated out into the marina, then began to sink.
According to bystanders, the brave actions of Darren Noltenius and Jon Timmermans gave the elderly man his chance to fight for life and police have confirmed their actions could merit bravery awards.
Mr Noltenius was carrying out maintenance on his small fishing boat Blue Eye when he heard the car scrape across the rocks and hit the water.
“It happened really quickly,” Mr Noltenius said.
He immediately jumped into the water to try and calm the man down and help him escape his rapidly sinking vehicle.
Other fishermen threw out life jackets, but the elderly man was struggling to get out of the vehicle even with help.
Mr Noltenius was clearly in shock and shaking as he described what unfolded in those few min- utes, which he said “felt like a long time”.
“I tried to get the window down before the car went down with him in it, and got my brother to go get a life jacket.”
But when it became clear the man wasn't coming out through the window, Mr Noltenius urged him to wind it back up as the car was filling up with water and there was a danger both men would become trapped.
In moments it was completely submerged in three to four metres of water with the man still inside.
Mr Noltenius said he was becoming exhausted and hyperventilated as he continued diving down to help get the man free.
Jon Timmermans and his fiancée Rossana Norton drove into the car park and saw Mr Noltenius gasping for air as a car was sinking into the water.
“We just drove up and saw the car sitting in the water, and I thought: 'What the'!” Mr Timmermans said.
“We knew something was definitely wrong with this picture,” Ms Norton added.
Mr Timmermans jumped in to help free the man while Ms Norton comforted his distraught wife on shore.
Miraculously, the man freed himself and burst to the surface, throwing up lung-fulls of salt water.
“It was such a relief when his head popped up,” Ms Norton said.
He was helped ashore and put into care of paramedics who took the man to the Tweed Heads Hospital in a critical condition.
Sergeant Rob Taylor of Tweed Heads Police said there were no suspicious circumstances.
“At this stage investigations are ongoing, but it looks like a tragic accident,” Sgt Taylor said.
He said police were impressed with the actions of the two men and said they could be in line for civilian bravery awards.
“That is certainly something we will be looking at.”
Sergeant Taylor said he had information the elderly man had been placed in an induced coma, but a spokesperson from The Tweed Hospital could not confirm the information, only saying the man remained critical yesterday afternoon.