The family of Nimbin man Damien Roadley, who died after a cliff fall at night in remote bushland at Blue Knob, have questioned the police handling of the search.
Mr Roadley likely fell to his death fleeing a bushfire in the inhospitable terrain on August 1. His body was not recovered for 10 days.
Kim Roadley told Echonetdaily that while he didn’t doubt the integrity and good intentions of local police, it was clear they were ill equipped for a search in extremely rough terrain.
He questioned why the search was called off after only two days, adding it was not until media reported to the family’s concerns that police once again swung into action.
Mr Roadley acknowledged that his brother most likely died within hours of the fall but described the 10-day period between his disappearance and eventual recovery as ‘heartbreaking’.
He said his brother’s body would have remained undiscovered were it not for the efforts of family and friends, co-ordinated by a privately-hired professional rock-climber.
In a statement, the Roadley family said they ‘would like to thank the community both in Nimbin and further afield for your tireless support, be it through simple wishes and prayers, through donations of resources and money, and most significantly through direct involvement in the search, whether on foot, by coordinating others, or providing meals’.
‘Your skills, dedication, and ability to work as a cohesive team are the only reasons Damien was able to be located, and there are no words to describe how grateful we are to each and every one of you.
‘We would like to acknowledge the efforts of local volunteer organisations, including the SES and VRA. We understand the difficulty that this terrain and task presented, and appreciate your involvement.
‘Finally, we thank the search team who actually found Damien, all of whom are volunteers from the community and beyond. Our thoughts are with you all,’ the statement read.
Disregard for human life
The family went on to point out what they considered were a range of failings in the police efforts.
‘Whilst the initial response was swift, we have a number of issues with the ongoing response. These include:
– Promising resources that were never delivered, such as stating on Friday 3 that the search dogs were to be deployed Sunday 5, but not bringing them out until Thursday 9.
– Calling off the search on Friday 3, only two days into the critical 72-hour period, citing lack of resources. This indicates a basic disregard for human life.
– Returning to the search only on Thursday 9th, following media involvement.
– Poor liaison and coordination with community members, who had been searching in teams every day since Damien was first reported missing.
– Spreading misinformation by claiming to have provided resources which were not utilized, such as the search dogs, who were not released due to steep terrain.
‘We must note that the response in the second search was more involved, and communication from agencies to the community improved as the search continued. For this, we are grateful.
‘We hope that the emergency services involved will review their roles in the context of wilderness searches to improve their involvement in future emergencies of a similar nature,’ the family said.
They described Damien as ‘a devoted father to Allirah, Hunter, and Jett’.
‘He was a cheeky son to Laurie and Marion, brother to Kim, and former partner to Moon.
‘He was a beloved friend to too many people to mention, though they all know who they are.
‘Though not a saint, Damien was an independent and curious soul, and the world was brighter for him being in it.
‘His passing has devastated us all.’