Tas lacked swift water tech during floods

·2-min read

Tasmanian police lacked swift water rescue capabilities during search efforts to find a farmer who was swept to his death in devastating floods six years ago.

Trevor Foster, 81, was killed on June 6, 2016 after being caught in fast-rising floodwaters on his property at Ouse in the state's Central Highlands.

A coronial inquest is examining search and rescue efforts for Mr Foster, whose body wasn't found until 2018, as well as the flood death of newspaper delivery driver Peter Watson in a separate incident.

An affidavit from Mr Foster's wife Helen, who has since passed away, was on Thursday read to the inquest.

Her husband of more than 50 years was feeding sheep when Helen saw water "rush" from the Ouse River.

"I've never seen anything like it," her statement said.

"I noticed Trevor had his back to the water. There was no use yelling because Trevor was hard of hearing."

She saw Mr Foster climb onto a fence before his feet were swept out from underneath him when he stepped down.

"I saw Trevor go down. I remember him yelling and he was gone. I didn't see Trevor after that," she said.

Tasmania Police Senior Sergeant Adrian Leary said floodwaters were flowing too quickly for a safe on-water search.

"At that stage we didn't have any access to rapid water search and rescue options," he told the inquest.

"And I was unaware if attending search and rescue people would have any access to any swift water rescue material."

However, Sgt Leary said there wasn't a great deal more that could have been done, as river and weather conditions were hazardous.

"The search and rescue people were doing as much as they could ... they're very good at their jobs and I trust them to do their jobs properly," he said.

Tasmania Police Senior Constable Ben Cunningham said the search was problematic because access to the edge of the river was limited.

He said it was too dangerous to put vessels in the water because of the amount of debris and submerged fences, barbed wire and dead animals.

"Our swift water rescue capability at the time was not fully developed. It's now been developed with support from Surf Tasmania," he said.

"We have the full swift water capability now."

Sen Const Cunningham said the search was outside the scope of what was usually dealt with.

"Flooding incidents in Tasmania are quite rare," he said.

"We were spread quite thin at the time ... our resources were allocated all across Tasmania. But in saying that, I had the resources required on those days to conduct the search."

A separate inquest will be held into the death of 75-year-old Latrobe resident Mary Allford who was trapped in her home by floodwaters.

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