The rural hamlet Coolabunia, southwest of Kingaroy.
The rural hamlet Coolabunia, southwest of Kingaroy.

Storm tragedy: Pray for our beautiful boy

THE grandmother of a child crushed in a freak accident during a storm clean-up says the family are struggling to come to terms with how their "beautiful boy" wound up injured.

Connor Creagh was last night in a critical condition in Queensland Children's Hospital after being crushed by a tree at his grandmother's property at Hodgleigh, near Kingaroy.

The 11-year-old was playing in a hole, created by an uprooted tree, when the tree fell on to him yesterday as it was being cut up by a chainsaw.

He suffered multiple injuries, including major trauma to his head, neck, legs and pelvis.

His grandmother Karen Peek said the family was struggling to comprehend the situation yesterday, describing the events leading to Connor's injury as a "freak accident".

"Once the (tree's) limbs were cut off, somehow, we don't know how, the tree flipped back up," she said.

The Sunshine Coast boy arrived at Mrs Peek's house the day before with his mother and her partner and his two children.

The family was cleaning up after the storm - including a hail tornado - lashed the region Thursday.

When emergency crews arrived, the tree had been pulled back out of the hole by a 4WD and Connor was free but unconscious.

The quick thinking of the adults at the property have drawn praise from attending paramedics.

 

Connor Creagh, 11, with mother Danielle Miles
Connor Creagh, 11, with mother Danielle Miles

 

Mrs Peek said her grandson was a "beautiful boy" who was "exceptional at sports".

Family and bystanders were visibly distraught as paramedics worked on Connor in the front yard of the home before flying him to hospital yesterday.

Emergency crews spent about an hour trying to stabilise the boy before moving him to the rescue helicopter.

Neighbours said the family had only moved to the area about a year ago.

"It's so sad to hear," one neighbour said.

"I was only speaking with Karen (Peek) this morning about the clean-up. I really do hope Connor is OK."

The major path of destruction of Thursday's massive storm - which included 70,000 lightning strikes and tennis-ball-sized hail - will require a massive clean-up operation into next week across the Sunshine Coast.

Extra SES crews have been pulled from Brisbane to assist in 500 requests for assistance.

SES director Brian Cox said felled trees had hindered crews trying to reach storm victims.

 

Paramedics worked on Connor for an hour before he was airlifted to Brisbane. Picture: Lachie Millard
Paramedics worked on Connor for an hour before he was airlifted to Brisbane. Picture: Lachie Millard

 

"We are asking people to be patient because we've actually got to navigate through the debris to get to some of these areas first," he said.

"We've had to use our chainsaw to get through and some of those have actually got power lines in them."

The Chaseling family were left temporarily homeless after the storm ripped off their roof in Coolabunia.

John Chaseling was working in his shed when the storm passed over his 60ha farm, leaving the property in ruins.

"It was just black as it came in. When the roof shed started rattling I even considered going out into the hail because I thought it would be safer," he said.

"The windows were also blown out of the house and water left strewn all through it. The main thing is that we're all OK."

Energy crews are working around the clock to restore power to thousands off residents.

The Energex network peaked at 27,000 outages on Thursday while Ergon Energy recorded 9000 properties - 5000 of them in the Gympie region - without power.

Properties in the Fraser Coast, South Burnett and Gympie areas may be without power until Sunday.

South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell said a disaster management group had been set up to handle the crisis.

"We've had a major path of destruction … there's a lot of damage done on particular properties in the path of this tornado-type (storm)," he said.

"It was quite horrific."

Coolabunia resident Nel Sheppard was caught in the storm's eye as she was driving.

"In my 38 years here, I've never seen anything like it," she said.

"I could see the branches whirling around me as if I was in the middle of the tornado."

About 1000 Queenslanders made insurance claims yesterday, according to the Insurance Council of Australia.

That figure is expected to rise over the weekend as residents count the cost.

A flood watch was last night in place between Gladstone and the Sunshine Coast.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Adam Blazak said rainfall of more than 100mm was possible in isolated areas by today. The storm cell that caused havoc is heading towards the Wide Bay - Burnett Coast region where it is expect to linger for 24 hours and dump up to 80mm.

Brisbane can expect showers today and Sunday before the cell moves down to NSW.

"We haven't seen anything like (Thursday), that was pretty powerful," Mr Blazak said.

Severe thunderstorms producing destructive winds, large hailstones and potential flash flooding were forecast for last night south of Emerald.



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