Tragic Find For Mum After Husband And Son Stayed To Defend Their Home From NSW Bushfires
A Cobargo woman has faced her worst nightmare, after returning home to find her husband, 63, and son, 29, dead in their family home, where they had stayed to fight the horror bushfire.
Patrick Salway and his father Robert had stayed back to defend their home and farm equipment against the fire, but had been unsuccessful.
They died overnight, and were found by the mother who returned home in the morning.
She had only a short while to report the deaths before she was again evacuated.
"It's been confirmed today that there are two deceased persons in Cobargo," Premier Gladys Berejiklian said during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
"The police have confirmed that. A third person is missing with grave concerns for their safety, west of Narooma."
The township has been aflame for much of the day, with multiple buildings on the main street destroyed. The town was evacuated earlier in the day.
Friends paid tribute to dairy farmer Patrick and his father, with one woman writing on the young man's facebook: "Only the best leave us so young."
"Just gutted... I have no words. Fly high mate, ride all the best ones up there."
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons on Tuesday confirmed dozens of homes and properties had been destroyed in Cobargo, and NSW Police deputy commissioner Gary Worboys confirmed the two deaths.
"Police have been in the last few hours able to get into Cobargo, into this house that's just west of Cobargo, and have unfortunately found two men in there deceased... that's, of course, a tragedy," Mr Worboys told reporters.
The fire affecting Cobargo is the Badja Forest Rd fire near Cooma, which rapidly moved eastward on Tuesday, having been predicted as a major threat along with bushfires in the Snowy Valleys area.
A third person in remote Belowra is missing and feared dead.
"We continue to try to make our way to a property, a house, that is west of Narooma, where unfortunately we think the news there will not be good either with an elderly man in that location," Mr Worboys said.
Locals in Belowra Valley have reported RFS volunteer Col Burns missing.
The firefighter had been volunteering with the Belowra Valley Rural Fire Service.
The RFS said significant damage had also been wrought in the towns of Fishermans Paradise, Broulee and Mogo - which is home to a popular zoo.
The Big Belimba Fire swept through the Belowra Valley this morning which remains out of control and has burnt more than 1200 hectares.
Emergency Services Minister David Elliott announced on Tuesday night he would cut his European holiday short to help support firefighters and affected residents.
“In light of the escalating damage toll to the South Coast and the tragic loss of a further two civilians and one RFS volunteer, I have decided to return to Australia to stand with our selfless volunteer firefighters and bushfire affected communities as we get through this period of devastating loss,” he said in a statement.
Mr Elliott landed in London at 6pm on Tuesday, and decided to return home after being briefed by the RFS Commissioner.
Georgi Misfeld lost her 30-year-old cottage to the fire in Belowra, and shared her concerns for Mr Burns in a post that quickly went viral online.
Other locals have also shared their fears for the heroic volunteer on social media.
Belowra is a rural community about an hour and a half from Bodalla on the Far South Coast of NSW.
The Volunteer Fire Fighters Association reported the valley spans around 12,000 acres and contained at least 12 properties.
"As far as I know there are seven houses and properties destroyed thus far from this morning’s fires.
"The fire shed is housing the majority of the Valley’s residents, but they are still waiting to hear from a few other families in the outer areas," Misfeld told 10 Daily.
The community remains on edge with the nearby Cobargo and Badja Forrest.
"[These] fires still pose a great risk to this community who is cut off from all access with only two RFS trucks to assist them.
"The majority of residents are trapped and seeking refuge at the Belowra Valley fire shed with some residents isolated on their properties as bridges have been burnt restricting their access to the fire shed," Misfeld said.
Today's deaths come just one day after soon-to-be father Samuel McPaul died when his fire truck was lifted off the ground and turned upside down by a 'tornado' generated in the midst of a fire.
On Tuesday evening, Marcus Hellyer shared an image of his local brigade's flags standing at half mast in memory of their fallen man.
The flags on the Sydney Harbour Bridge are also at half mast.