Sink­hole sur­vivor tells all from his hos­pi­tal bed, un­der po­lice guard

Fraser Coast Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - INGE HANSEN Inge.Hansen@fraser­coastchron­i­

FROM be­ing mo­ments away from death while trapped in a “freak” sink­hole, to be­ing put in hand­cuffs for an ar­rest war­rant – it was an in­tense 24-hours for Kym Bax­ter-Say­ers.

Speak­ing with the Chron­i­cle ex­clu­sively yes­ter­day morn­ing un­der po­lice guard from his hos­pi­tal bed, Mr Bax­ter-Say­ers shared in de­tail what it was like to ex­pe­ri­ence the hor­ror ordeal.

On Thurs­day morn­ing, the 29-year-old Her­vey Bay man saw a bearded dragon and fol­lowed it into the sand dunes on the Uran­gan beach near Guard St when the ground sud­denly col­lapsed be­neath him.

Within sec­onds he was fight­ing for his life in a two-me­tre deep sink­hole.

It was in the rapidly sink­ing sands where he would stay un­til he was res­cued about five hours later.

“I started walk­ing through the sand dune and all of a sud­den I fell through the ground,” he told the Chron­i­cle.

“One minute the ground was there and the next it was gone.”

Mr Bax­ter-Say­ers thought he would be able to re­move him­self from the sand but the more he tried to es­cape, the harder it be­came.

“Sand just kept com­ing down the more I tried to get out,” he said.

“Ev­ery time I grabbed a stick or branch, more would fall down. I thought I was go­ing to die.”

Each time he called for help, sand en­tered his mouth.

He said it made it hard to breathe and he was des­per­ate for water. He feared no one would hear his cries.

As the sun bore down, his body tem­per­a­ture started to rise and he be­gan to slip in and out of con­scious­ness.

Af­ter more than an hour, passers-by who heard Mr Bax­ter-Say­ers’ cries, found him and called emer­gency ser­vices. At 11.30am, the del­i­cate rescue op­er­a­tion be­gan.

Buck­ets and shov­els were ini­tially used to re­move sand from around his ch­est while some used their bare hands.

By 1.15pm, a 30m ex­clu­sion zone was cre­ated and ex­ca­va­tors were brought in to help re­move large mounds of sand. At 2.45pm, he was fi­nally freed be­fore paramedics car­ried him on a stretcher to a wait­ing am­bu­lance. He suf­fered mi­nor in­juries. How­ever he still suf­fers pain through­out his legs.

His free­dom was short-lived when po­lice dis­cov­ered he was wanted for an ar­rest war­rant for al­legedly breach­ing his bail con­di­tions and was sub­se­quently placed in po­lice cus­tody af­ter leav­ing Her­vey Bay Hos­pi­tal yes­ter­day.

Her­vey Bay po­lice Act­ing Se­nior Sergeant Josh Ryan said there were sev­eral fac­tors that pro­longed the rescue mis­sion, in­clud­ing po­ten­tial med­i­cal prob­lems and the risk of the ground col­laps­ing even more.

Snr Sgt Ryan said res­i­dents should not be con­cerned about a se­cond sink­hole in­ci­dent.

“We’re treat­ing it as a freak ac­ci­dent,” he said.

“Where it hap­pened was quite far into the sand dunes and there was thick shrub­bery so there’s no need to be too con­cerned.”

Photos: Alistair Bright­man

DEL­I­CATE OP­ER­A­TION: Rescue work­ers at the scene in Uran­gan on Thurs­day. Rescue work­ers un­der­take painstak­ing work to free the trapped man.

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