HE’S suffering the most horrific heartbreak imaginable after losing his son and partner in the devastating Aussie floods.
But the grieving dad of Jordan Rice last night found the strength to pay emotional tribute to his boy, who gave up his life to save his little brother Blake – in a display of courage that touched the world.
John Tyson told how the brave 13-year-old urged rescuers to take Blake, 10, from the roof of their car as it was engulfed by a raging torrent. And he said he spent the night of his 46th birthday visiting his son and partner Donna Rice in a mortuary.
It was also revealed selfless Blake begged rescuers to save his mum first.
Tears rolling down his cheeks, John said: “Jordan gave his life to save his brother.
“He has touched the whole world and left a legacy to show human goodness.
“I always told Jordan to do the best he could and he did this amazing thing for Blake. Donna and I brought up the kids to be kind to other people.
“The only thing that consoles me is the thought that Donna is with Jordan. I know she’d have never let him be taken away by himself.”
John, who has two other sons, Chris, 22, and 16-year-old Kyle with Donna, told of the agonising moment he went to the mortuary to identify Jordan and his mum.
And he said Blake gave him the strength to go through with the task, showing maturity beyond his years.
Cement worker John added: “I did not want to go in and see their bodies. But Blake insisted we say goodbye.
“I think it gave him something to cling to… if looking at your dead mum and brother is something to cling to. It was the first time I have cried since I was 13. There I was on my birthday. Some bloody present, identifying my missus and kid, and looking at Jordan’s broken finger sticking out.
“It is so hard but I have my other boys and I have to stay strong for them.”
Jordan, Blake and Donna were trapped when their car broke down in the floodwaters near their home in Toowomba in Queensland.
Jordan asked rescuer Warren McErlean and another, unnamed, man who came to their aid to save terrified Blake first. He and Donna then clung to a tree as the waters rose. But as he waited for the men to come back he lost his grip and was swept away. His mum went after him and the pair drowned.
Speaking from his single storey timber home, John said rescuer Warren told him of the dramatic moment he arrived to try to save his son and partner.
He added: “They were clinging on to a tree for dear life. The second he let go, Donna splashed after him but in moments they were out of view.” Warren told how when he arrived at the submerged car, Jordan was already telling his mum that Blake should be saved first.
He said: “I’ll never forget watching the family debate what order they should be saved. There was a commotion in the car. Jordan was arguing because he wanted the younger boy to go first.
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“I found out later that he did this even though he couldn’t swim.
“The other man just looked at me and I looked at him. We shook our heads.
“Both of us knew the current was too strong. It was tragic. Blake was just screaming for his mum, saying, ‘Please save Mum! Please save my mum!’” Warren, 37, met John for the first time last week after the tragedy. Haunted by his experience, he has been to see him and Blake every day since. He said: “I just wish I could have done more. It has been really good going up to see John and Blake. But this whole hero thing bothers me a bit. Little Jordan is the hero, not me.”
But John said that, had he lived, his son would not have enjoyed the adulation.
He added: “He was an introverted boy and would have shied away from it. But he should get some kudos for saving his brother and deserves his time to shine.”
Speaking of how hard the tragedy has hit Warren, John said: “I knew he might be plagued by a few demons. In fact, he was shattered by everything. I said that I knew he had done the best he could and that I could be mourning three people.
“Apparently, he has taken it hard. If I can help him with it… well, he helped me.” Warren, who owns a business building sheds, spent the weekend with wife Debora, driving his truck around the nearby town of Postman’s Ridge, offering help to those whose houses had been torn apart.
Donna and Jordan will be laid to rest on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the floods continue to affect large parts of the country.
More than 3,500 people have fled their homes in north-central Victoria, where experts are predicting the worst floods in 100 years. Yesterday, the army was drafted in and dozens of rural communities were sandbagging their properties as they watched four river systems rising.
Floods have already swamped some of Victoria’s northern towns and are threatening 1,400 homes in 43 others.
Flooding has also spread into New South Wales, where nearly 7,000 people are relying on air drops of food and other supplies.
Residents are looking on nervously after witnessing the devastation which torrents have wreaked in Queensland.Three weeks of flooding left a vast area underwater and caused 28 deaths. The state capital Brisbane – Australia’s third largest city – was badly hit, with around 30,000 homes affected.
Water levels have now largely receded and a major clean-up operation is under way.
But in Victoria, Trevor White, of the state’s emergency service, said: “We are seeing stream rises that haven’t been witnessed for decades and that’s leading to widespread flooding over vast areas of the state.”
The towns of Echuca and Horsham are expected to be worst-hit while in the small town of Charlton resident Peter Gretgrix said the scale of the damage was “heartwrenching”.
He added: “It’s just total devastation. Some of the shops are a mess, with their windows smashed out. It’s terrible.”
3survivors of the devastating floods that have killed more than 610 in Brazil have carried food, water and blankets to friends, relatives and neighbours stranded in remote areas cut off by the deluge.
Residents claimed promises of government help have come to little. Helicopters sent to deliver aid have been having difficulty flying in the low cloud. One local said: “Where is the government? What are they doing? This is shameful.”