Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Ute rescued from Murray River

A fisherman has thanked a diving team, towers and emergency services after his ute plunged into the Murray River near Tocumwal Tocumwal and took two days to remove.

ROB HENSON June 23, 2014 3:36am

River rescue: Cobram Panel Works tow truck pulls the ute from the Murray River near Tocumwal on Monday morning last week.

A fisherman has thanked a diving team, towers and emergency services after his ute plunged into the Murray River near Tocumwal and took two days to remove.

Owner of the ute David Landmeter said on Saturday, June 7, he had finished moving house from Strathmerton to Tocumwal.

On his third time fishing at the spot, he pointed the car towards the water about 10pm with the headlights on and investigated the potential fishing spot.

‘‘Then I spun around and saw it rolling forward,’’ Mr Landmeter said.

‘‘I tried pushing back, but it weighs more than a tonne. You’re not going to stoSp that in a hurry.’’

The Ford Falcon RTV dropped down a cliff and onto the angled bank, rolling into the waterway.

Immediately after watching his vehicle plunge into the river, he said he felt ‘‘pretty gutted’’.

‘‘There was a lot of shock,’’ he said.

‘‘Nothing like that has ever happened to me ever. Everyone’s had their incident backing into something, but to have your car roll away from you and straight into a river... It’s a good reminder if you’re pulling up to a river — or trees or a road — make sure you pull up side-on.’’

After the ute plunged in, Mr Landmeter said his first instinct was to jump in after it, but he knew it would be pointless.

‘‘The second instinct was to get some rope. There were people camping out downstream... I couldn’t believe it, but nobody had any rope. I had ropes in the cab of the ute.’’

The Ford Falcon RTV was parked on the Victorian side of the river about 10pm when it dropped down the angled bank, rolling into the river.

Cobram Panel Works manager Mark Haberfield said the vehicle drifted downstream before it filled with water and became snagged on the river floor.

Adding to the difficulty of the rescue effort the ute’s four metre depth, and the water temperature of 8°C.

‘‘So it was probably one of the hardest (submerged vehicle incidents), they haven’t ever been in that depth of water and that cold,’’ Mr Haberfield said.

The State Emergency Service was called to assist but was busy on other matters during the long weekend, so private contractor divers from Echuca were called in.

‘‘The police and Parks and Wildlife officer were keen to get it out as soon as possible, with the main concern there was no leaking oil or other fluids into the river system,’’ Mr Haberfield said.

‘‘They spent over an hour on Sunday trying to secure it, but we weren’t able to get down to it.’’

It was Monday morning when the ute was finally pulled out.

‘‘As I was telling other operators around the region, the fact we didn’t need a crane was probably pure luck, getting it up the embankment was a struggle all on its own.’’

Two trucks were required, with one used as a safety mechanism in case the first failed.

Mr Haberfield said it was among the more challenging jobs he had encountered and overall the process cost about $3000.

‘‘The police were happy to see it on the back of the truck in town.’’

No-one was injured in the incident, just ‘‘injured pride’’ to the owner, according to Mr Haberfield.

Mr Landmeter thanked the towers, divers and others assisting for the hauling task.

‘‘Those guys were fantastic in all their efforts to recover it.’’

Since it happened, Mr Landmeter said comments from friends had made him realise how ‘‘lucky’’ he had been.

‘‘Lots of people have said ‘the main thing is that you’re all right’.

‘‘I was pretty lucky how things went — I could have had my dog tied to back of the ute, (a passenger) with me, I could have been run over.’’

Remarkably, Mr Landmeter said nothing in the ute floated away, including about $2000 in fishing gear and other items in the tray and a wallet from the cab.

The fishing trip was not entirely unsuccessful, with ‘‘a few yabbies’’ also pulled up with the ute.

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