Plaque commemorates 1968 boating accidents

Published on 04 September 2015

It has been 47 years to the day since Rob Nebe’s first rescue effort, but it’s one he still easily recalls with detail.

A freshly recruited fire-fighter at the time, Mr Nebe arrived at the Fitzroy River alongside his crew on September 4, 1968 after hearing of a boating accident on the local waterway.

The accident had tragically claimed the lives of two teens, Anthony Boyd Cook and Timothy Wickham.

A third teen, Stephen Ward, was in need of rescuing - found clinging to a cavity of the then partially constructed Fitzroy River Barrage.

“We needed to go over the side and pick him up from below,” Mr Nebe said, recalling the event.

“We had a very long rope, about 200 feet or something like that. I was nominated to go over and get the young fellow up. I wasn’t too concerned about it really – in my younger days I grew up on a farm so I was used to hanging about on ropes and things.

“It was a matter of lowering me down and I was then able to set the young fellow up in the harness.”

The accident was one of two that would occur on the Fitzroy River that year.

The second accident occurred just five weeks later on October 6, 1968, where local teen, Allan Toohey tragically lost his life. His brother Daniel Toohey was saved thanks to the heroic efforts of local fire-fighter Bob Collins.

Today, both events were commemorated in a special ceremony held by Rockhampton Regional Council.

Rockhampton Region Mayor, Margaret Strelow officially unveiled a plaque at the Barrage in North Rockhampton as part of the ceremony.

“It’s with great privilege that we are able to commemorate the lives lost to these accidents and pay special tribute to the valiant efforts of those who risked their own lives in both of these events,” Mayor Strelow said.

“While it is a sad occasion in many ways, it’s vital that we mark these pieces of our history.”

The plaque reads:

In 1968, two tragic boating accidents occurred on the Fitzroy River, just five weeks apart.

This plaque is in memory of the men who tragically lost their lives to these accidents, and in recognition of those who risked their lives to save others.

In memory of Anthony Boyd Cook and Timothy Wickham who lost their lives on 4 September 1968 and in recognition of Rob Nebe whose brave efforts saved the life of Stephen Ward.

In memory of Allan Toohey who lost his life on 6 October 1968 and in recognition of Bob Collins whose brave efforts saved the life of Daniel Toohey.

Chair of Council’s Water Committee, Cr Greg Belz said a sincere thanks go to all who attended today’s ceremony.

“Today we were joined by rescuers, Rob Nebe and Bob Collins,” Cr Belz said.

“Family members of Anthony Boyd Cook and Allan Toohey were also able to join us.

“This plaque serves as a reminder for generations to come, and it’s special it’s unveiling was able to be witnessed by some of those who were directly involved.”