Little girl survives as three others drown in swollen river

A WOULD-BE rescuer has described how he desperately tried to save three people trapped in a sinking car at Tumbulgum today.

Emergency services are now facing the grim task of recovering three bodies after they found the submerged car about two hours after it plunged into the flood-swollen Tweed River.

Emergency services are at the scene after a car plunged into the Tweed River at Tumbulgum.  Rescuers are searching for passengers believed to be in the water.
Emergency services are at the scene after a car plunged into the Tweed River at Tumbulgum. Rescuers are searching for passengers believed to be in the water. Scott Powick

A 10-year-old girl escaped from the car but her family - believed to be a mother and two children - were trapped inside after it crashed off Dulguigan Road at Tumbulgum at 1.40pm.

Police divers are being flown up from Sydney overnight to recover the bodies after the submerged car was found by sonar equipment about 5m from the northern river bank about 3.25pm.

Retired highway patrol officer Matt Grinham discovered the crash when he was driving to clean up flood damage at a family member's house.

He immediately dived into the freezing river with three other men and followed the bubbles coming out of the water as the submerged car floated downstream.

"We were going down feet first trying to work out where the car was," Mr Grinham told the Gold Coast Bulletin.

"Then we tried diving a couple of times but the water was so brown and cold ... the flood run off is freezing down there.

"The car was completely submerged when we got there."

The men could not reach the car.

Another witness Peter Taylor said a girl ran up the road and said her family had gone into the river.

"This little girl has run down the road, and she has said her mum and dad or family have gone into the river," he told Nine News.

"She is only a little thing and her feet were bleeding apparently, that's what the firies tell me, and they called an ambulance and called the police."

Scores of emergency services, including the rescue helicopter, raced to help with the operation.

The rescued child was taken to Tweed Heads District Hospital with cuts and lacerations to her lower legs as well as neck pain.

She is being cared for by family members.

Assistant Commissioner Northern Region Commander Jeff Loy said the car crashed off the road and plunged into the river.

"This is a tragic event and we're very concerned a tragic event will unfold over the evening.

"This is about heeding the warnings of the road closures, this has been a major event and the emergency services don't take those closures lightly."

The river was strewn with debris from the floods.

Diversions are in place.

EARLIER: RESCUERS are frantically trying to find three people feared trapped in a submerged car that plunged into the flood-swollen Tweed River this afternoon.

A 10-year-old was pulled from the car after it came off Dulguigan Road at Tumbulgum, landing in the Tweed River about 1.40pm today.

There are fears three other people - including the child's mother and sibling - are still trapped inside the car.

Scores of emergency services have raced to the location and are searching for them.

The river was strewn with debris from the floods.

Chief Inspector Mick Dempsey said he couldn't confirm the circumstances of how the vehicle ended up in the Tweed River but did confirm the New South Wales Police diving unit was on its way to retrieve two females and a male from the water.

"About 1.40pm this afternoon a vehicle has travelled along Dulguigan Rd at Tumbulgum, it has gone into the Tweed River, one person has escaped from the vehicle and we're currently searing for three occupants of that vehicle," he said.

"With the assistance of SES as well as VRA to search the river, a private person bought a sonar device which we used to search and we have located an object believed to be the vehicle about five metres out from the north bank."

Chief Inspector Dempsey said he believed those in the vehicle were locals but could not confirm their ages.

Dulguigan Rd has been closed due to flood damage since Friday but police are urging people to stay away from the area for their own safety.

A NSW Ambulance spokesman said the rescued child had been taken to the Tweed Hospital.

"We have treated and stransported one female patient approximately 10 years old for cuts and lacerations to lower legs and neck pain," he said.

"The patient is being transporterd to the Tweed Hospital."

No further details are available. Diversions are in place.