Home' Army News : February 3rd 2011 Contents 'IT WASN'T a flood -- it was
a tidal wave and after it hit a
line from the movie The Day
After Tomorrow popped into
my head, 'who would've thought
waking up this morning that our
lives were about to change forever',"
Pte Lisa Spierling said.
A florist, mother of five and clerk
in the Army Reserve, Pte Spierling,
25/49RQR, was happily baking a car-
rot cake for her two sons and daugh-
ter, who were with her at the time,
when about 3.45pm a neighbour burst
through her front door screaming for
them to get out.
"He grabbed my four-year-old
daughter, Ilsa, and ran out the door,"
Pte Spierling said.
"My two sons, Hahns and Klaus,
and I followed him and scrambled
into the back of his ute.
"As he reversed out of the drive-
way, I could see a wall of water,
about 2m high, coming towards us
from the south. We drove around the
back of my flower farm and aban-
doned the vehicle."
Pte Spierling said she grabbed her
neighbour's baby and Ilsa out of the
car, put them each on a hip and ran
with her two sons towards the railway
tracks, which were on higher ground.
"We got up onto the railway tracks
and could see people getting washed
out of their houses, howling at us for
help," she said.
"A bunch of other people reached
the railway tracks by boat so we start-
ed to pull them up on to the tracks."
Pte Spierling said she looked to
the west and saw another wave of
water approaching them.
"I started yelling at everyone to
run," she said.
"Someone took the baby off me,
but I was having trouble running with
back and bolted.
"It was a bit like running with
a pack at Kapooka, except a pack
doesn't weep while saying 'don't let
me drown, mummy'."
Pte Spierling said by this stage
people were exhausted and struggled
to keep up.
"A man took Ilsa off me and I
yelled at the people who were falling
behind to hurry up," she said.
"One lady told me to leave her
because she wanted to die. Of course,
I didn't leave her."
After about a kilometre of run-
ning, the group made it to a bridge,
crossed it and pulled themselves up
onto higher ground.
"Everybody was shell-shocked,
but a local copper, who was off duty,
took control of the situation and I
spent the night patching up people's
injuries," Pte Spierling said.
"Rescue choppers came and after
we evacuated the children, injured
and elderly, I got my kids out of
"If it was just me, I would've
stayed longer to help, but I had to
think like a mother, not a private in
the Army Reserve."
Meanwhile, Pte Johnathon
Klaassen, 25/49RQR, was trying to
get to Pte Spierling's house to check
on her and her family.
"I was at my brother's mother-in-
law's house when it hit," Pte Klaassen
"All of a sudden, we looked out
the front door and Grantham was
"My brother and I waited until the
water receded a bit before we went
to look for 'Spierlo' and anyone else
who needed help."
Pte Klaassen said on their way to
Pte Spierling's house they passed a
bloke who walked straight into the
"As he was carried off downstream
he yelled out to us that his daughter
was still trapped inside his house and
he was going to get her," he said.
"I couldn't let him go alone, so I
floated about 50m upstream across to
his house where I found his daughter
"His son was also there so when
their father arrived I helped the three
of them get up onto their roof where
they were rescued by a chopper."
About 6.30pm, the rescue chop-
pers ceased rescue efforts because it
was too dark and dangerous to fly.
Pte Klaassen said he and his brother
decided to keep searching for people.
"We rescued an old sheila first,
located her heart medication and got
her into a fire rescue truck that drove
her to safety," he said.
"Then we went down to Spierlo's
house to see if everyone was all right,
but nobody was there.
"As we trudged down the main
street, we found eight people stuck on
a roof, but we couldn't get them down
because we didn't have a ladder."
As they continued down the main
street, Pte Klaassen said they spotted
a little boy stuck in a tree.
"We decided to climb up the tree
and get him down," he said.
"His father was up in another tree
and told us to just rescue his kid but
the water had gone down and wasn't
that deep, so we rescued him too.
"A man then pulled up in his 4WD
asking if he could get through town. I
said 'nope, but take this guy and his
kid back to Helidon where it's safe'."
Pte Klaassen and his brother then
found a fire truck with a ladder and
helped the eight people they had spot-
ted earlier down from the roof.
The 4WD returned and made sev-
eral more trips to evacuate the people
As Ptes Spierling and Klaassen sat
together inside her wrecked shed a
few days later, she said it was hard to
reflect on the events of that day.
"I feel guilty that I couldn't help
my neighbours when they needed
me," Pte Spierling said.
"It happened in a matter of sec-
onds, so nobody had time to rescue
Pte Spierling said, as a result of
the flood, they had lost their home
and their business.
"We lost everything, but I won't
complain because I don't have to bury
my husband or kids -- we all survived
and that's all that matters," she said.
Pte Klaassen said his friendship
with Pte Spierling had helped to con-
sole him when he realised his house
"We have been close mates ever
since we met at reserve training two
years ago," he said.
"Spierlo has been someone to talk
to, which is comforting because we
both understand what the other has
Bound by their service, friendship and community spirit, Ptes Lisa Spierling and Johnathon
Klaassen from A Coy, 25/49RQR, share their stories of survival and heroism in battling the
'inland tsunami' that devastated their hometown, Grantham, on January 10.
AB Melanie Schinkel reports.
A wall of water
FLOOD DAMAGE: Pte Johnathon Klaassen, 25/49RQR, assesses the damage to his home in the township of Grantham. Inset: Ptes Jonathon
Klaassen and Lisa Spierling, 25/49RQR, outside Pte Spierling's home.
Photos by AB Melanie Schinkel
Army SPECIAL LIFTOUT February 3, 2011
We got up onto the railway tracks and could see people
getting washed out of their houses, howling at us for help
PTE LISA SPIERLING -- 25/49RQR
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