EXCLUSIVE: Sinkhole survivor shares his story
FROM being moments away from death while trapped in a "freak" sinkhole, to being put in handcuffs for an arrest warrant - it was an intense 24-hours for Kym Baxter-Sayers.
Speaking with the Chronicle exclusively yesterday morning from his hospital bed under police guard, Mr Baxter-Sayers shared in detail what it was like to experience the horror ordeal.
On Thursday morning, the 29-year-old Hervey Bay man saw a bearded dragon and followed it into the sand dunes on the Urangan beach near Guard St when the ground suddenly collapsed beneath him.
Within seconds he was fighting for his life in a two-metre deep sinkhole.
It was in the rapidly sinking sands where he would stay until he was rescued about five hours later.
"I started walking through the sand dune and all of a sudden I fell through the ground," he told the Chronicle.
"One minute the ground was there and the next it was gone."
Mr Baxter-Sayers thought he would be able to remove himself from the sand but the more he tried to escape, the harder it became.
"Sand just kept coming down the more I tried to get out," he said.
"Every time I grabbed a stick or branch, more would fall down. I thought I was going to die."
Each time he called for help, sand entered his mouth. He said it made it hard to breath and he was desperate for water. He feared no one would hear his cries. As the sun bore down, his body temperature started to rise and he began to slip in and out of consciousness.
After more than an hour, passers-by who heard Mr Baxter-Sayers' cries, found him and called emergency services. At 11.30am, the delicate rescue operation began.
Buckets and shovels were initially used to remove sand from around his chest while some used their bare hands.
By 1.15pm, a 30m exclusion zone was created and excavators were brought in to help remove large mounds of sand.
At 2.45pm, he was finally freed before paramedics carried him on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance. He suffered minor injuries however he still suffers pain throughout his legs.
His freedom was short lived when police discovered he was wanted for an arrest warrant for allegedly breaching his bail conditions and was subsequently placed in police custody after leaving Hervey Bay Hospital yesterday.
Hervey Bay police Acting Senior Sergeant Josh Ryan said there were several factors that prolonged the rescue mission, including potential medical problems and the risk of the ground collapsing even more.
Snr Sgt Ryan said residents should not be concerned about a second sinkhole incident.
"We're treating it as a freak accident," he said.
"Where it happened was quite far into the sand dunes and there was thick shrubbery so there's no need to be too concerned."