Tumbulgum grieves as lives and homes lost
AS TUMBULGUM residents come to terms with the damage caused by the flood to the riverside village, the community is now dealing with the tragedy of losing three of their own.
Tumbulgum's Living Waters Church Pastor Rob Stuttle confirmed Stephanie King and her two children, Jacob and Ella-Jane, who lost their lives on Monday after their car plunged into the Tweed River, were a big part of the community.
"The reality we've lost a family from the community is heart-breaking and on top of all of this," he said.
"Losing stuff - we can all replace stuff - but people losing lives and family that's just heart-breaking."
Mr Stuttle said while the children were attending a new school this year, they had been enrolled at Tumbulgum Public School for years in the past and their mother had worked at the Tumbulgum pub.
"We do the scripture at the local school and they've been in our scripture class for the last five years," Mr Stuttle said.
"We knew them personally so that came as a big hit. I know the lady and I know she loved her children and she wouldn't have put them at risk."
While there was a lot of confusion about whether Dulguigun Rd was open or closed at the time of the accident, Mr Stuttle said he was certain it was open, despite what the police had initially reported.
"I went down to tell the (media) the road wasn't closed because I just thought I don't care whose family it is, it's not fair," Mr Stuttle said.
"There were a lot of cars moving backwards and forwards coming across. Once the accident had happened then they put up closures, there was nothing before that.
"I drove on that road myself the night before the accident. It was muddy, I've got a four-wheel drive and I was driving in second gear. It was muddy but it was okay, you just had to be careful. I drove right up and back."
Meanwhile, residents continued the clean up today after the floodwaters caused severe damage to properties and businesses, cutting off the village for three days.
"Everyone's been focused on shifting mud and gear but now the emotion is starting to set in about the devastation," Mr Stuttle said.
"The problem was on Saturday no one could get in here. We had one couple manage to get through but we were basically stranded. Then on Sunday people could come from the south but not from the north and then by Sunday afternoon people were coming from north. They couldn't get access into the place."
While the damage was extensive, Mr Stuttle said the community had come together to make sure everyone was supported during this stressful time.
"The Tumbulgum resident's association president Jenny Kidd and I went around from house to house to see how people were and whether they were getting enough help," he said.
"What we've been doing is when people say they're coming down we say come and if we don't need them we send them around the place."