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Tourists escape as campervans wash away

Tuesday 15 Jan 2013 12:46 p.m.

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Four tourists in Nelson are lucky to be alive after their campervans were washed away when the Waimea River burst its banks this morning.

The tourists, a female from Germany and three men from the United States, had parked their converted Nissan campervans under the SH60 bridge near Appleby to shelter from heavy rain.

But at around 9am this morning, the river began to rise and submerge their vehicles. 

Half-an-hour later the swollen river burst its banks and washed away their vans and most of their possessions.

“Once it breached its bank, it came swelling in. I awoke to the sound of trickling water,” says one of the tourists.

“It took us unawares because we were on the actual edge of the river itself by the pier of the bridge.”

The occupants of one van managed to save essential items but the other pair lost everything but a guitar and backpack.

Senior Constable Dave Colville says the tourists are lucky to be alive, especially one of the American men, who tried to save his gear from the van as it was floating away.

“They have been taken to a local holiday park when they are drying off. The vans haven’t been located yet. They are very lucky,” he says.

The tourists say they joked about the river flooding last night, after seeing drift wood on the ground where they parked, but never seriously gave it thought.

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