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Crews recover bodies of British dad and son, 9, killed in Australian landslide
4 April 2022, 16:18 | Updated: 5 April 2022, 06:49
Crews in Australia have retrieved the bodies of a British father and son who died in a landslide in the Blue Mountains, with the mother and second son in a critical condition.
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A New South Wales Police spokesperson confirmed that the bodies of the 49-year-old man and his nine-year-old son were winched out by PolAir around 9.30am on Tuesday.
A 15-year-old British girl, who called the emergency services when disaster struck, was the only member of her family to walk away unharmed following the landslide, in which her father and brother died.
She remains in hospital and is being treated for shock after four members of her family were hit by the landslide.
The man, 49, and nine-year-old son were pronounced dead at the scene on the Wentworth Pass, a popular tourist hiking trail to the east of Sydney, around 1:30pm on Monday.
The bodies remain at the site of the landslide at Wentworth Falls as crews work to retrieve them by helicopter on Tuesday.
The mother, 50, and second son, 14, were airlifted to hospital with severe head and abdominal injuries. They were sedated and put on assisted breathing before being flown for medical treatment.
All five involved in the tragedy were members of a British family on holiday in Australia.
John Nelson, Acting Superintendent of New South Wales police, said: "Unfortunately there's been a land slip while they've been bushwalking.
"It's quite a tragic scene."
Speaking to radio station 2GB on Tuesday morning, Mr Nelson said emergency services were focused on caring for the two critically injured members of the family yesterday.
"That obviously takes some time, it's a good 90-minute walk into where the landslip had occurred and the site is quite dangerous," he said.
"They had to make that site as safe as possible for the rescue squads to provide that care, so hence we're still in the recovery phase for the two people who didn't survive."
New South Wales premier Dominic Perrottet called the incident "tragic" and said he would be seeking advice as to whether the walking track should have been open given recent heavy rain.
"These tragedies occur too often so anything we can do to keep people safe, we will," Mr Perrottet told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday.
"Obviously, the Blue Mountains is a place where people love to go trekking. It's one of the wonders of the world but when those tragedies occur it would be remiss of any government not to act."
Police have launched an investigation into how the rockslide took place and why the trail was open to tourists following days of heavy rainfall in the region.
Following the removal of the bodies, the New South Wales Department of Environment and Heritage announced that the area was closed to the public until further notice and a "comprehensive review" would be undertaken.
The department added that the walking track was inspected in the days before the rockslide as part of a routine track assessment program.
New South Wales Ambulance Acting Chief Superintendent Stewart Clarke said the woman and 14-year-old were winched out of the site via helicopter around 6pm on Monday, more than four hours after the tragedy took place.
He said emergency crews had struggled to reach the "extremely dangerous, unstable" scene due to difficult and slippery terrain following weeks of sustained rainfall.
"This was a really complex and delicate rescue operation for our crews who were working to access patients in rugged bushland and were navigating unstable ground," he said.
Clarke said the scene was "exceptionally confronting and heartbreaking" for all involved and a "truly tragic ending to what I'm sure was meant to be a pleasant day out".
"It is terribly sad to have lost two lives here today and my heart goes out to the families and the survivors of this horrific ordeal who have witnessed what is certainly a traumatic event."
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: "We are providing consular support to the family of a British couple and their children following an incident in Australia.
"We are in contact with the local authorities."
It was not immediately clear whether the family were under rocks that fell on walking on a trail that collapsed or who called emergency services.
Seven paramedic crews and two rescue helicopters including special operations medics and a critical care doctor were sent to the scene.
Local police, Police Rescue, Fire and Rescue NSW, National Parks & Wildlife Services, Blue Mountains detectives, PolAir and rescue helicopters all took part in the rescue efforts.
The steep 5km hiking trail, listed by the NSW National Park Service as a "challenging" grade 4 difficulty trail, was open to the public on Monday and conditions for walking were "good" despite days of heavy rainfall.