Some of the heroes of Townsville’s flood response have reunited with a 98-year-old man they helped pluck from rising waters at the height of the city’s disaster.
More than two months on from the dramatic rescue, the soldiers of 4th Regiment, The Royal Australian Artillery, have presented David Shannon with a T-shirt from their regiment, wrapping their arms around him once more after the ex-railway worker lost almost everything he owned in the disaster.
“There was no time to get anything and the soldiers did everything they could to make me comfortable and I am so grateful,” Mr Shannon said.
Mr Shannon has taken up full-time residency at Ozcare’s Villa Vincent Aged Care Facility after his Louth Street unit in Rosslea was inundated by water, with only one box of his possessions able to be salvaged in recent weeks.
His survival story is one of several involving some of Townsville’s most frail and isolated residents, with Rosslea one of the worst-hit suburbs also home to some of the city’s elderly residents.
The one-in-500 year flood event swept through Rosslea on the evening of Sunday, February 3 after a relentless downpour in the north.
Mr Shannon was amongst dozens of flood victims rescued by soldiers from the 4th Regiment in one of the first staged evacuations by Joint Task Force 658 – Operation North Queensland Flood Assist in the suburb, and across Townsville throughout the evening. He was helped out of his housing commission unit on a walker and transported by Defence vehicles as the soldiers tried desperately to find him suitable temporary accommodation.
“I was the only one on a walker so needed help getting into the truck,” Mr Shannon said. Mr Shannon was taken to the hospital but there were no beds available. He was then taken to Heatley cyclone evacuation centre but with only mattresses on the floor, he was unable to stay there.
Eventually, the soldiers organised an ambulance for Mr Shannon and he was taken to The Good Shepherd Home at Annandale, where he spent the rest of the night.
“We don’t identify ourselves as heroes,” said Major Colin Soane of the 4th Regiment, RAA. “We are part of the Townsville community and the community is an important part of us being able to do what we do. What the whole task force did was just us doing what was needed to help our community.”
Ozcare’s Villa Vincent Facility Manager Peter Richardson said Mr Shannon has found a permanent home at the facility after arriving on February 7.
“We have managed to salvage a small box of his possessions, but the rest was destroyed in the flood,” Mr Richardson said.
“He arrived with just the clothes on his back, but we have helped him out with clothes and personal items.
“We’re so happy to offer him a permanent place to live. He has lived in Townsville for 40 years, never married and has no family or any pets.”