How a quiet date turned into a fight for their lives
A romantic night on the water ended in terror for Nathan Harrison and Kate Ryan, who were almost swept to their death in a flooded Sydney river – on their third date!
While Nathan had planned to impress Kate with an evening dip at a picturesque swimming hole, the budding Casanova and his gorgeous date were forced to spend the night in scrubland, freezing and wearing only their swimmers, after being swept more than 2km in a flash flood.
‘It’s taken me a few days to get over it,’ says Kate, who suffered severe cuts to her legs in the incident. ‘I was even scared to get in the bath. I’m not sure if there’ll be a fourth date – I’m still deciding!’
The couple’s harrowing ordeal began when adventurous Nathan, 24, decided to take the blonde 23-year-old stablehand for a night swim at his favourite swimming hole near Grose Wold, in Sydney’s northwest.
‘I go there a lot so I know the spot well and Kate’s been there quite a few times too,’ he says.
‘The water was still – like it normally is – when we first got in. It had been raining hard in the Blue Mountains that day, so it was pretty stupid not to take the rain into account.’
CALM BEFORE STORMAfter 15 minutes floating around on an air mattress, romance soon turned to panic as the weather conditions changed dramatically.
The terrified pair were thrown from their lilo by the torrent and dragged downstream before they managed to cling to trees on the riverbank.
‘I don’t know how he held it together because I hate water and don’t like heights,’ Kate explains. ‘I thought: “If the tree goes, that’s it!” because I’m not a strong swimmer. My tree was lying flat by the end and other tree trunks were crashing into it. I knew it was going to go 10 minutes before it did. That was the worst – knowing it was going to happen.’
ALONE IN THE DARK
Kate’s worst fears were realised when the tree finally snapped, sending her rushing into the raging waters below.
‘I thought she was gone,’ confesses Nathan softly.
‘It was horrible. Then five minutes later, my tree broke and I was swept away, but luckily I was able to keep my head from going under.’
Miraculously, the exhausted pair were reunited on a riverbank about 2km from where they had originally started.
Nathan’s board shorts had been ripped off by the force of the water so Kate handed him a pair of shorts she was wearing over her bikini, and they tried to make their way back to the car.
‘We spent a couple of hours trying to get out so our parents wouldn’t worry, but we eventually realised we’d have to wait until we got rescued,’ Kate says. ‘It was pelting down so we found shelter under the biggest tree we could find and had to lie on top of each other to keep warm. It was freezing.’
SAFE AND SOUND
Concerned their son hadn’t returned home that night, Nathan’s parents alerted the police, and the couple were eventually rescued by a PolAir helicopter crew at 8.45am the next morning.
‘I thought we were going to die the whole time,’ Kate admits.
‘Even after we got out of the water, I was shivering so much
I thought I was going to get hypothermia. It was the coldest I have ever been.’
While the couple’s romantic future remains uncertain, one thing’s for sure: they have a newfound respect for each other – and their own lives.
‘It’s definitely made me appreciate life and not take things for granted,’ Nathan says.
And Kate just appreciates being back on dry land, saying: ‘If there is another date, it will be at the movies or something.’By Amy Mills
Photos: Andrew Shaw