The victims of NSW and Victoria crisis
Several people have been confirmed dead after days of “apocalyptic” scenes and devastation as a result of the bushfires in New South Wales and Victoria.
As more than 100 blazes continue to burn in NSW and Victoria, residents are coming to grips with the “horrifying” bushfires that destroyed properties and claimed lives.
There are grave fears for an untold number who are still missing – at least 17 in Victoria alone.
Four victims across both states, including a 70-year-old man found dead outside a Yatte Yattah home, a man’s body in a burnt-out car at Yatte Yattah, and a man’s body found in a vehicle in Sussex Inlet, are yet to be identified.
But we do know the names and faces of many to have perished over the course of the crisis.
The body of 67-year-old great-grandfather and town “larrikin” Mick Roberts was identified as the first victim of the East Gippsland’s bushfire tragedy.
Mr Roberts was found dead inside his fire-ravaged home in Buchan by his nephew, Jason, who delivered the sad news to family.
Mr Roberts’ niece, Leah Parsons, told the Herald Sun her uncle had been painting his home with two friends before the bushfire hit.
“They ran into the river on the property but they couldn’t get him to go,” Ms Parsons said. “He said he needed to go into the shed for a minute and they never saw him again.”
Mr Roberts, who had a daughter, two stepchildren, and great grandchildren, was a cattleman who loved his family and farm, located on 182 hectares of land on Sunny Point Rd.
Ms Parsons said her uncle was “a bit of a legend in town” and “never complained about anything.”
“He was a real salt of the earth sort of guy,” she said.
Samuel McPaul, a 28-year-old volunteer firefighter from Holbrook, was killed on Monday when a freak wind, described as a fire tornado, up-ended the truck he was in.
The eight-tonne Rural Fire Service vehicle that Mr McPaul was riding in was flipped by a fierce wind gust on a property at Jingellic, east of Albury.
“Samuel leaves behind a family that is now without a father and a husband,” Superintendent Patrick Westwood said on Tuesday morning, choking back tears.
NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said Mr McPaul was “well respected and admired in local community and brigade”.
He also revealed that Mr McPaul and his wife, Megan – who had been married for just 18 months – were expecting their first child in May.
“As you would expect, the family is grieving and it’s been a very difficult night, and I don’t think the comprehension has set in yet on the enormity of the loss,” Mr Fitzsimmons said.
PATRICK AND ROBERT SALWAY
Patrick Salway, 29, and his father Robert, 63, died while trying to defend their property against a bushfire on the NSW south coast on Monday night.
Patrick, a young father and dairy technician, and Robert, were found dead on Tuesday by Patrick’s mother when she returned to the burnt-out property.
The men had stayed back to try to save the family home in Wandella, about 10km northwest of the gutted township of Cobargo.
Patrick’s wife Renee, who is pregnant with the couple’s second child, posted a tribute to him on Facebook on Tuesday night.
“We are broken,” she wrote. “I love you now, I love you still, I always have and I always will. I will see you again Patrick, my best friend. Hope you are up there ‘fixing things in the stars tonight’.”
Mr Selth’s body was found at his property on December 21 in the aftermath of the bushfire, one of 15 houses burned by the fire. He is survived by his partner Suzy, his children Johanna, Luke and Jasmine and their partners Lachlan, Jo and Scott, and his six grandchildren.
He has been remembered by his family as a loving and generous man.
“When he gave a hug, he meant it,” they said in a statement at the time.
The family told The Advertiser Mr Selth had “an incredible passion for life and was young at heart” and “valued his relationships with family and friends more than anything else”.
GEOFFREY KEATON AND ANDREW O’DWYER
Mr Keaton, the Horsley Park Brigade deputy captain, and Mr O’Dwyer, died just before midnight in the crash.
Mr Fitzsimmons said both men were “well-respected” and from a “close-knit brigade”.
“They work together, socialise together, they’re very interactive together,” he said. “Their respective partners and wives shared a lot in common with their camaraderie and connection with the brigade.”
Both Mr Keaton and Mr O’Dwyer were fathers of young children: Mr Keaton has a young son, Harvey, and Mr O’Dwyer a daughter, Charlotte.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian paid tribute to them both, calling them “heroes”.
Barry Parsons, 58, was found in burnt-out bushland northwest of Kempsey on the mid-north coast in November.
Police said Mr Parsons’ body was discovered by locals on the southern end of the Kyuna Track at Willawarrin.
Julie Fletcher, 63, was found in a burnt-out home in the town of Johns River, 40km north of Taree on the mid-north coast on November 10.
Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams described Ms Fletcher’s death as “an enormous tragedy”.
The remains of 85-year-old George Nole were discovered inside a burnt-out car at the Kangawalla fire, near Glen Innes, in November.
Mr Nole was a well-known figure in the Glen Innes community and was often seen cycling around town.
Residents of Wytaliba, where he lived, called him a “true gentleman” who taught the town’s young people about electronics and photography.
Grandmother-of-six Vivian Chaplain, 69, died after being found unconscious and with burns to 40 to 50 per cent of her body in Wytaliba on November 8.
“She was a strong woman who died protecting the home and animals she loved,” Ms Chaplin’s daughter-in-law Chrystal Hardwood told ABC.
“The loss of her has devastated our family, there was nothing we could do. She was stuck and we couldn’t get to her.”
BOB LINDSEY AND GWEN HYDE
Couple Bob Lindsey, 77, and Gwen Hyde, 68, were found dead in Coongbar, 70km southwest of Casino, as a result of the Long Gully Road bushfire in early October.
The couple, who had been married for three years, were found dead in their home.