A freak windstorm threw a family event at Lake Albert into chaos on Saturday, with cars crushed and children lucky to escape from an overturned jumping castle.
Stephen Lamont said his son and four other young children had just go onto a jumping castle, which has a large slide attached, at the Riverina Truck Show and Kids Convoy when a gust of wind alerted the operator to the danger.
“He started yelling at the kids to get off while the other guy started deflating the ride,” Mr Lamont said. “My first thought was we were about to lose my son, but myself and some other parents jumped on this thing, we got him and two other kids off, then this thing lifted and flipped right over.
“Thirty to 40 people ran up to try and lift it and we searched for any kids that might have been stuck underneath it, but everyone was safe.”
Moment later, a gum tree crashed down where the jumping castle had been.
“If the wind hadn’t moved it the tree would have fallen on it for sure,” Mr Lamont said. “Any kids at the top of that slide would have been crushed or sent flying. The wind felt like the wash from a plane engine or helicopter blades… it’s miraculous that no-one died.”
Even though the intense winds lasted less than two minutes, the damage was quite significant. Eight cars were crushed by falling trees, hay bales that families had been sitting on were littered with branches and paramedics attended to the injured.
Ambulance officer Eamonn Purcell was amazed no-one was killed.
“We sent three ambulances and assessed nine people with injuries from minor cuts and lacerations to bruising,” Mr Purcell said.
“But thankfully, we didn’t have to transport anybody (to hospital).”
The cleanup from Wagga’s freak wind storm continued on Sunday morning as tow trucks cleared away crushed cars while SES volunteers took chainsaws to the fallen trees.
Wagga SES controller Daniel Mahoney said there had been more than 30 calls for help on Saturday night, many of them involving fallen trees.
“We had people out until midnight dealing with trees on roofs, cars and sheds,” Mr Mahoney said.
“This freak gust of wind hit a strip of Wagga, Kooringal and Lake Albert bore the worst of it, it’s been really busy.
“There was a storm warning for places like Hay and Griffith but nothing near us – they only got seven or eight calls for help and now we’ve had more than 40.”
Mr Mahoney said it was an early reminder to make homes “storm safe”.
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