The wife of the New Zealand Breakers' coach has described the
"horrible" scenes after a bus carrying children and elderly
people was swept away while attempting to cross a river
during a flash flood in Samoa.
Christy Vickerman, husband Dean and other relatives were in
another bus travelling back from a family reunion in the
village of Tufutafoe on the island of Savai'i on Saturday
when the disaster, which claimed the lives of two girls,
unfolded in front of them.
"Everyone was freaking out," Mrs Vickerman said. "My sister
got off the bus and went and helped a woman who had a toddler
with a broken arm. The toddler was in quite a bit of shock.
"It was quite chaotic. The bus that went in was full and you
couldn't tell how many people you were trying to save.
"A lot of people were exhausted. They couldn't even move
their legs to stand, they were that exhausted. There were
lots of cuts and bruises, people with their clothes ripped
off by the force of the water. It was quite horrible."
One of two Australian volunteer workers who was on the bus
when it flipped thought it had been hit by a tsunami, Mrs
Dean Vickerman, an Australian who has taken over as head
coach of the champion Breakers basketball team, paid tribute
to the bravery of his brothers-in-law in helping rescue
passengers thrown into the torrent.
Cass Watson, a New Zealander who lives in Sydney, was the
first person to wade in, Vickerman said. His other
brother-in-law, Alan Silver, was close behind him.
"They were outstanding," Vickerman said. "Cass was the first
one in there. He didn't hesitate at all. That certainly drove
us to push a little further than we might have."
The bus driver's attempt to cross the swollen river was
crazy, he said.
People from a nearby village were on the road warning
motorists of the danger. The bus the Vickermans were on had
pulled over to wait for the water to recede; however, the bus
behind them pulled out and drove straight into the water.
"We certainly weren't going to try it," Vickerman said. "It
was crazy. It got halfway across and just got washed down. I
didn't quite see what happened but from all reports it
flipped and the roof came off. It landed on some rocks and
everybody was thrown out.
"It was just so fortunate that the roof came off and it
landed up the right way.
"[We] jumped straight out of the bus and bowled down to see
what we could do. We were just trying to drag as many people
out as we could. The current was so strong.
"We started trying to pull people back against the current
and you just couldn't move. You just had to grab people, get
dragged out a bit then go sideways and get back to the
Vickerman admitted he feared for his safety during the
"As you jump into the water there is that kind of thing in
your mind about not being that guy who rescues someone else
but loses their own life.
"But once you got into it and worked out the current you
started to feel like the worst thing that could happen was
that you'd get dragged out a little bit further."
It wasn't until they took a woman to hospital that the
Vickermans learned that two girls, aged 12 and 5, had
"We had 10 kids on our bus," Vickerman said. "That was the
scariest thing, learning two kids lost their lives."
Samoan media have reported the bus was trying to connect with
a ferry sailing and was overloaded.
- Steve Deane of the New Zealand Herald