Duo’s end in inferno
A COUPLE married for just three years perished side-byside in their home in the ferocious fires which ripped across northern NSW on Tuesday.
Well-known farmer Gwen Hyde, 68, and retired service station owner Bob Lindsay, 77, died at their isolated Deadman Creek Rd house at Coongbar, which backed on to Keybarbin State Forest.
THE elderly couple who perished side-by-side in the devastating bush blazes still ripping through northern NSW had just married three years ago after falling in love late in life.
The worst fears of emergency services workers battling the bushfires were realised last night when it was revealed that well-known local farmer Gwen Hyde, 68, and retired service station owner Bob Lindsay, 77, died at their isolated Deadman Creek Rd house at Coongbar, which backed on to Keybarbin State Forest.
The tragedy was discovered when police were asked by the couple’s frantic children from their earlier marriages to check on their welfare.
Neighbours said the Long Gully Road fire had “roared: through when the easterly winds picked up on Tuesday afternoon. The fire had been burning since a lightning strike on September 5 and joined up with the Busbys Road blaze that police believe was deliberately started on Friday.
A close friend, Carol Dillon, said she didn’t think the pair would have stood a chance.
“I’m hoping it was very quick,” Ms Dillon said.
Mr Lindsay used to own Casino’s Liberty Service Station where he famously used a broom handle to scare off a machete-wielding thug seven years ago.
He married Ms Hyde at Casino courthouse after her previous husband Archie lost his battle with dementia.
“It was a lovely wedding, a quiet one,” Ms Dillon said.
“Everyone was pleased they got together.”
RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said some of the couple’s livestock also died.
“The property affected was significantly damaged. Lots of destruction,” he said. “The damage is extensive and yes they had animals, they had pets and some hadn’t survived and they all will need to be tended to like so many others.”
Together the relentless infernos have destroyed around 50 structures — including about 30 homes — as it was revealed hardened locals from nearby Ewingar were forced to fight walls of flames by hand-cranking makeshift fire trucks made from water tanks.
The fire has burned through more than 70,000 hectares since Tuesday. Families who escaped the fire sought safety at Ewingar Community Hall yesterday as RFS members converted it into a makeshift station and helipad.
Ruth Harriman, 68, told The Daily Telegraph she would have lost her home of
40 years if she did not have her homemade fire truck.
“It’s just a water tank on the back of a ute with a spray nozzle — we got it for about $500.
She was trapped, alone, fighting the fire for about an hour as her partner, Paul Aborting, 56, was on duty battling flames with the RFS.
Her 9000-litre tank quickly burnt, along with another smaller 1000-litre tank leaving her with only 1600 litres to defend her entire property.
“I couldn’t have fought the fire any longer than I did, I had run out of water,” she said.
She said she was grateful for her neighbour Frank who let her fill up her tank on Tuesday morning, just five hours before the blaze engulfed her land.
As she finished fighting off the fires around 4pm, less than a kilometre away, Ewingar local Allan Highfield just started his own terrifying ordeal.
“I had initially evacuated when I first heard about the fires. I was at the community hall, which is close to my house, and I was putting out spot fires there,” he said.
“I had thought my house was gone, I could see all the flames over the back of my way and it was 10 to 15-metre high walls of fire. Then a mate of mine, Gary, came to the hall on a quadbike with a water tank on the back. He asked if I wanted to see my place.”
The pair jumped onto the back of Gary’s quad bike and drove to Allan’s home, where the fire was already licking at the base of the timber cottage.
Allan began to use the hoses hooked up to his tanks but the rubber pipes quickly burnt leaving him to use a bucket to throw water at the fire.
From 4pm until midnight on Tuesday the pair raced around the property trying to protect his home.
“There were times when I thought I would not make it out alive,” he said.
Married couple Gwen Hyde and Bob Lindsay, who perished in Tuesday’s inferno.
Ruth Harriman at the ruins of her property and (insets) the RFS mounts aerial attacks on the fires. Pictures: Dylan Robinson
An empty water tank in Ewingar.