Teen talks about losing twin in raging flood waters

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TRACEY Woolley’s voice is barely above a whisper as she solutions the query. Her voice cracks however her message is resolute.

At her aspect, 18-year-old Denver Woolley listens as his mum talks about assembly the three dads in a rescue helicopter who saved her son’s life, however had been unable to avoid wasting his twin.

Denver has his personal story to inform, of an hours-long combat for survival in raging water, logs the scale of vans hurtling previous, and a ponga tree that skinned his arms and saved his life, however for now he’s quiet.

This isn’t a narrative about one teenage boy. It’s about 5, and what occurred when an on a regular basis summer season outing turned to tragedy on February three.

Three — Denver and associates Nathan Phillips and Jason Lee — would survive when a sudden downpour turned the usually placid creek beneath Waitakere Ranges’ swimming gap Cascade Falls, about 30km west of Auckland, right into a terrifying torrent of debris-choked water.

Two boys wouldn’t.

One was Sosiveta “Sosi” Turagaiviu, described by his associates as variety and beneficiant, by his faculty as a eager basketballer, and by his pastor as a tough employee who toiled at KFC so he may purchase a automobile he wouldn’t stay to drive.

The opposite was Mitch Woolley — son to Tracey and her husband Mike, and Denver’s twin brother.

When Denver final week met the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew who saved his life, it was to say thanks and to place names to faces he didn’t — within the trauma of the rescue — bear in mind very a lot.

His mum additionally wished to place a face to “these nameless those who go about their obligation” for an organisation she has lengthy supported, and is now sharing her household’s story for the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Belief’s new chopper annual enchantment.

“You by no means truly imagine, and even hope, that it will likely be you that wants them. It’s hit personally this time, so it’s good to know that it’s actual folks and so they truly wished to fulfill us as properly.

She desires to allow them to know that rescuing Denver “meant one thing to them”.

What did it imply to her?

“The whole lot,” she says softly.

“I couldn’t think about life if he had gone as properly.”


It was a typical teenage boy sort of day, that first Saturday in February.

Mates. Enjoyable. Meals. Extra enjoyable.

Mitch was the driving drive behind the boys’ day collectively. Denver and their associates had been again at Massey Excessive Faculty, however he was a working man now.

The earlier November he’d began a trial as a marine methods engineer; the week earlier than the tragedy he accepted a everlasting supply of employment, Ms Woolley says.

“They’d truly determined inside the first week he’d began that they wished him within the job. The trial was ensuring it’s what he wished.”

When Mitch stated he’d shout Denver and three associates paintballing, his mum wasn’t shocked — although it value lots of.

“All his first pays had been about different folks. He’d purchased me a pair of greenstone earrings and the day earlier than [he died] he’d purchased Denver an train factor that he’d at all times preferred.

“He was on a trainee wage, so he wasn’t incomes very a lot, but it surely was all about doing issues for his mates and spoiling his household.”

Ms Woolley was with the boys that final Saturday morning.

“We’d had a very enjoyable day.”

Returning to the household residence, she fastened the kids’ lunch. They then determined they wished to go swimming on the close by Cascade Falls.

It was 4pm when Ms Woolley dropped the boys at Falls Rd automobile park, 15 minutes stroll from the waterfall.

She’d be again in an hour, she informed them as they set off.

“I went down [and] acquired Lotto, drove up residence and the rain began. It was actually heavy, so I drove straight again down and it was … catastrophe. Even driving down from the water working off the land was simply so sudden and so heavy.”

The nervous mum was again on the automobile park by about four.20pm, however she may do nothing.


Denver was swimming when it began raining. He wasn’t alarmed.

“We had been within the water already and we didn’t thoughts. It was just a bit bit extra water.”

Nevertheless it acquired chilly, and Denver seen extra water popping out of the waterfall. They determined to go away, however there was an issue.

Whereas Mitch and Sosi had been on the track-side of the swimming gap, Denver, Nathan and Jason had been on the other aspect.

The cliff behind their ledge was too steep to climb. And the water in entrance of them was rising “so fast”, Denver says.

“In three minutes it went from the underside of my ft to the highest of my ankles.”

Nathan was the primary to fall in.

Mitch and Sosi ran after him. Denver wouldn’t see both alive once more.

On the quickly disappearing ledge barely a minute handed earlier than he and Jason had been “pinned in opposition to the wall”.

“We had nowhere to go. The one technique to go was to fall in. Jason stated he was scared and I used to be attempting to be courageous and all, however I knew it may go one in all two methods — we get washed in and we find yourself OK or we get washed in and that’s it.

“I assumed we had been gonna die proper then.”

Inside 10 minutes the inevitable occurred.

“The water simply didn’t cease rising, it simply washed us in.”

Instantly separated, Denver subsequent noticed Jason — who made his personal technique to security — at Waitakere Hospital.

Nathan, who fell first, would escape the floodwaters, elevating the alarm when he flagged down two vacationers who referred to as emergency companies.


That combat began with a fortuitous choice.

After the floodwaters washed him from the waterfall ledge, he went far and quick — he estimates at the least 600m in 40 seconds.

“It was like … whitewater rafting. Occasions three. [There were] logs coming down the scale of vans and wiping out each tree round me.

“There’s no phrases that would describe the quantity of energy that that water had.”

Regardless of the drive of the water, Denver managed to swim to a ponga tree and wrap his arms round it.

The tree stayed standing. He stayed holding on to it for over two hours within the freezing water because it ripped his arms to shreds.

Ultimately he was rescued by the helicopter.


It’s a unique life for the Woolley household now, however there are moments of grace.

The 2 moms who misplaced sons share a bond others can not, and discuss typically, Ms Woolley says.

“[Sosi’s mum] calls me her sister.”

There are moments of gratitude, too, for the assist and love from these they know and people they don’t, from emergency responders to household to strangers within the automobile park.

They may “by no means even start to thank or acknowledge” all, she says.

“This is a chance to say that we’ve appreciated it.”

After which there’s the rescue helicopter crew, fathers all, who saved extra lives than one which day.

“As a result of what we’re going by means of is fairly tough,” Ms Woolley says.

“Nevertheless it may’ve been an entire lot worse.”

This text initially appeared on the NZ Herald and is reproduced with permission.

Supply hyperlink – http://www.information.com.au/life-style/real-life/news-life/teen-speaks-of-tragically-losing-his-twin-in-horrifying-flash-flood/news-story/6fee479ce66f1c6ec51c18d60675ebd3

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