'You're stuck, mate': floodwaters maroon traveller

Optus's Tom O'Dea marooned by floodwaters near Mendooran

PREDICAMENT: Optus regional general manager Tom O'Dea (inset) was stranded when floodwaters suddenly rose near Mendooran. Photos: CONTRIBUTED

PREDICAMENT: Optus regional general manager Tom O'Dea (inset) was stranded when floodwaters suddenly rose near Mendooran. Photos: CONTRIBUTED


Water was gushing across the road at two points, and Optus's Tom O'Dea was caught in between.


A fast-rising flood left a telecommunications boss stranded on a country road north-east of Dubbo at the weekend.

But he emerged unscathed the next day in a classic case of the bush helping in times of need.

Optus regional general manager Tom O'Dea was on his way to Coonabarabran on Sunday afternoon when a gushing stream of water stopped him "21 clicks south of Mendooran".

Turning back along the road he found another half a metre of water barring his way and he was marooned.

Mr O'Dea was facing the prospect of spending the night in his Toyota Camry when discovered by local farmer Ben Sweeney, who invited him to the family home and provided food and a swag for the night.

He emerged from the memorable experience thankful for their generosity, and thinking of the greater good.

"It was an interesting night, but it's just such a classic example of when things go wrong in the bush, everyone helps everyone," he said.

"It's the reason why I love living in regional NSW, it's just community-focused and community-minded and everyone pitches in, so despite everything, it was great.

"And the absolute silver lining is that at Cobbora they got 85mm in an hour and 30 minutes, it's probably a bit too fast, but they'll take whatever they can get at the moment."

The Yass-based manager was on his way to Coonabarabran, where Optus was to launch the Virtual Psychologist roadshow on Monday.

Deciding it was "not a good idea" to drive on in a Camry, he waited half an hour before calling triple zero, but the floodwaters also proved a difficulty for the local police officer.

It was then that Mr Sweeney showed up, on his way to check on livestock.

"I thought it was the police, anyway he stopped and he goes 'hey, you're stuck mate', and I thought, yeah, I am," Mr O'Dea said.

Mr Sweeney came to his rescue.

"We had a good old chat about a million things and it was really nice to meet his family and amazing for them to take me in," Mr O'Dea said.

"I had one of their local lamb sandwiches, which was the best lamb I've had in a long while."

In a strange twist, it was generosity coming full circle.

Last year Mr O'Dea had successfully asked Optus's executive team to supply 36,000 litres of bottled water for Mendooran, which was then on level six water restrictions.

Mr Sweeney said it had been a "real good turn" and they were happy to return the favour.

This article first appeared in the Daily Liberal


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