Farmer’s dad, brother killed in ‘tornado of fireballs’
The voice at the other end of the phone wasted no words to pass on the horrific news: "It's Dad and Patrick, they're gone, they didn't make it."
Farmer Timmy Salway has described the horrific New Year's Day morning a bushfire killed his brother Patrick, 29, and father Robert, 63, as it ripped through their family properties on the south coast's Wandella Valley.
"I felt numb, I was defending my own property, it was a tornado full of fireballs that was ripping up trees," Mr Salway told The Daily Telegraph.
"I heard a roar like never before, it sounded like five jumbo jets, and I looked over the hill at Dad and Patrick's farm … it was a freak of nature, the perfect storm, they had no chance.
Mr Salway said his mother Janelle, Robert's widow, was determined to keep the property running.
"Mum's no good, she's a tough old boot but she'll get there. We have to carry on, we have no choice," Mr Salway said. "Patrick's wife, she's broken."
Fourth-generation farmer Robert died of a heart attack while setting up fire breaks to thwart the inferno.
Patrick, who lived on the property with his family, died as the flames swept through leaving him no escape.
Patrick's wife Renee is pregnant with their second child.
Janelle was at the property helping her husband and son tackle the ember showers and found their bodies in the same paddock.
In a cruel twist of fate, Robert's sick mother died soon after her son and grandson perished in the flames.
"We didn't tell Nana about Dad and Patrick," Mr Salway said. "That weekend I lost three generations of my family.
"I'm focused on getting back on my feet, Dad would have wanted that, he taught us 'no matter what, carry on', that's what farmers do.
"When it's quiet and there is no one around, I'll have a cry by myself.
"It's just down to pure luck that we didn't go down ourselves."
To help the stricken Corbago community, please donate to the district emergency fund, at Bendigo Bank: BSB 633000 and account number 171138555