'I just kept floating': Chloe-May Kabealo, 8, reveals how she escaped flooded van

  • 24/04/2017
glooding cyclone debbie survivor chloe
Stephanie King, Ella Jade, 11, Jacob, 8, and Chloe.

An eight-year-old girl has described how she unbuckled her seatbelt and escaped by going "up for air" after the van she was in plunged into a NSW river drowning her mother, sister and brother.

Chloe Kabealo was the sole survivor when the white van slid off a muddy road into the Tweed River at Tumbulgum in early April.

Her mother, 43-year-old New Zealander Stephanie King, and siblings Ella Jane, 11, and Jacob, seven, tragically drowned on April 3.

"I unbuckled my seatbelt and I tried to go up for air and then I just kept floating up out of something and then I got out," Chloe told reporters on Sunday at a Tweed Heads fundraiser for the family.

"They were all loved and they will never be forgotten."

Chloe managed to swim to shore and walked to the nearest farmhouse to raise the alarm.

"They just took me in, and lent me some clean clothes and cleaned up the cuts on my feet," she said.

Chloe's father, Matt Kabealo, on Sunday said he was "shattered" but staying strong for his daughter.

A GoFundMe page has raised more than $156,000 for the family from 1500 donors.

NSW Police Superintendent Wayne Starling has said that Ms King would be alive had she not tried to free her young children.

"I can tell you the mother was trying to get one of her children out of the car when she passed away. She was with the child, holding the child," he said.

The accident happened after the region had been hit by heavy rains that followed Cyclone Debbie.

It was the worst flooding in northern NSW in 40 years.

NZN / Newshub