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Woman v wild: Mum's night in the Aussie bush

Last updated 10:38 28/02/2013
Julie Carrington

SURVIVOR: Stranded by flooding, Julie Carrington spent a night in Queensland bush near Pomona this week.

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She spent the night perched on a tree stump in thick Queensland bushland as torrential rain pounded down on the small umbrella she had for shelter.

It was not the end to her routine grocery run that mother-of-three Julie Carrington expected on Monday afternoon.

"The bush isn't a fun place to be in the dark," she said.

The 49-year-old, who had been grocery shopping, was stopped by floodwaters not far from her home near Pomona, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, on Monday afternoon.

"I've lived in this area for 20 years and our road floods all the time," she said.

"I drove through the first two lots of floodwater, and they were pretty big and almost out of my comfort zone ... but when I came to the last lot of floodwater before my place it was going way too fast for me to drive through.

"So I backed up my car ... and I grabbed my shopping and started to walk home."

Carrington had a bag of groceries, an umbrella and her handbag, and was wearing jeans and a T-shirt.

But she was forced to veer from the bush track she would have normally taken home because fallen trees had blocked the route and ultimately became disoriented in the leech-infested scrub.

By nightfall she came to the conclusion help wasn't coming her way.

"So I tucked myself up on this little stump to keep my feet out of the water and away from the leeches," she said.

"I really tried to keep the panic and the fear at bay."

Her three daughters - aged 28, 24 and two - and her frail, elderly mother were at the forefront of her mind.

Come morning, the 49-year-old was covered in mosquito bites and scratches from the sharp thorns of the "wait-a-while" vine.

Despite that, she built up the courage to try to make it out of the bush.

"I'd walk a little way, but then come back to my stump and then I'd try again. I did that about three or four times before I thought 'this is crazy, you can do this'."

She trudged on through knee-high water desperately searching for a road.

By then, a rescue helicopter was whizzing overhead while State Emergency Service volunteers and police searched for her on foot.

"Every time I would come to a place where there was flooding I would move off further into the bush," she said.

Eventually, Carrington stumbled upon a track that ultimately led back to her car, and into the waiting arms of her eldest daughters and partner Lea.

"All my bravery just left me then and I fell into a heap," she said.

"My body is so sore ... and I have mozzie bites over every conceivable inch of my body."

Carrington has conceded she made "plenty of silly mistakes" on Monday.

"I should have never driven through floodwater and I should have never left my car," she said.

But her rescuers have praised the decision she ultimately made not to cross the floodwaters.

"All we were thinking was how wet and cold she would have been and just hoping she had found some shelter for the night," Maroochydore Police Senior Sergeant Peter Grace told the Sunshine Coast Daily.

"It is important that people make good decisions and staying in the one spot and not using too much energy and seeking shelter was a good decision to make."

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Maroochydore swift water rescue technician Paul Clark said Carrington's reunion with her family had been an emotional one.

"She was fairly calm and relieved when she saw us and walked out of the bush under her umbrella," Clark said.

"Then she saw her family, who were waiting for news on the search, and she burst into tears."

Now Carrington is simply glad to be "out of the rain and away from the mozzies".

Her advice to others: "Don't drive through floodwaters."

- Brisbane Times

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