A former senior Tasmanian police officer remembers the moment he almost drowned when his vehicle was caught in the rapidly rising floodwaters that claimed the life of Peter Watson.
Sam Lloyd was an officer on duty the night that three Tasmananians lost their lives in the devastating floods of 2016, including Scottsdale newspaper delivery driver Peter Watson, Latrobe grandmother Mary Allford and Ouse farmer Trevor Foster.
Mr Watson, 63 was delivering newspapers with his partner Karen Cassidy near Evandale on June 7 when the van they were travelling in was swept away in floodwater.
Mr Lloyd gave evidence at the coronial inquest into the three flood deaths on Wednesday, telling Coroner Simon Cooper about his search and rescue experiences near the South Esk River that early morning.
In complete darkness Mr Lloyd spent up to 15 minutes trapped in his stalled four wheel drive that was engulfed by water.
"[Water] surged over the roof of the car and the lights went out," Mr Lloyd said.
"I remember trying to get the driver's door open, but had issues forcing the door and that might have been due to the surging water," he said.
"My immediate instinct was to open the door and get out."
Despite the engine having taken on water, and with the water having receded as quickly as it rose, Mr Lloyd was miraculously able to restart the vehicle.
He refused the option to go home and continued working, heading back out into the darkness to help others.
Within the hour he had responded to a call where a voice could be heard calling out from the water.
"[A witness] said he had heard a noise and I think he initally thought it was wildlife or something stranded...when he turned the car engine off he made out that it was actually the voice of a person," Mr Lloyd said.
That person was Ms Cassidy who, along with Mr Watson, had been washed downstream from the roof of their van.
"We could hear the voice...I went down through the paddock and back into a relatively low lying area of floodwater, it wasn't moving too fast, and engaged in conversation," Mr Llloyd said.
"I called out, I think I asked for her name, and remembered that she kept asking 'have we found Peter?'
"I was just trying to provide as much positive reinforcement as I could until we got the helicopter there."
Tasmania Police constable Bradley Collins was part of the search and recovery effort to find the missing Mr Watson, whose body was recovered on June 22.
He provided evidence to the Coroner about the next day's search efforts, including the rough conditions of the water, and the decision not to conduct a search from the water.
Mr Collins said a lack of police officers trained in swift water rescue prevented such a search.
He said at that stage, it was also outside the estimated two to five hour survival timeframe of someone entering the water.
"The timeframe for survival, the conditions of the river, the experience of police personnel, the risk of injury or perhaps death of somebody going into the river, far outweighed the likelihood of finding the missing person," he said.
"At that stage we didn't have anyone within Northern Search and Rescue that was qualified for water rescue, so obviously they had been trained to be on a vessel, but not under those conditions."
Mr Collins added that the ground search effort was based upon a theory that to be alive and survive hypothermia, Mr Watson needed to have made it out of the water and be somewhere on ground.
The inquest continues until Friday.
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