Nelani Koefer
Nelani Koefer Photo supplied

Witness saw 'wall of water' before girl drowned in river

THE Coronial inquest into the death of Blackwater girl Nelani Koefer has started in Rockhampton.

Nelani was four when she drowned in the Mackenzie River after a section of an inflatable storage barrier at the Bedford Weir ruptured on November 20, 2008.

The inquest heard the weir was popular with the locals for swimming and fishing.

Nelani and her mother Amy Koefer were at the weir with friends on the day.

Counsel assisting Barrister John Aberdeen said during the inquest, evidence would be given by a witness who recalled seeing a "bubble or blister" on the inflatable section of the dam and later heard "a loud bang" which "sounded like a shotgun" as the barrier burst.

Mr Aberdeen said there would be further evidence from the person who produced a report on the incident which found the inflatable barrier had ruptured.

Representatives from Sunwater and Trelleborg, which produced the rubber fabridam, are also expected to give evidence during the inquest.

Describing the force of the water after the dam ruptured, Ms Koefer said she was holding Nelani while trying to hold onto a tree and could feel the sand being washed away from under her feet.

Ms Koefer said the water, which was initially only the height of her shins, reached chest height rapidly.

She described being dragged under the water.

New South Wales man Dennis Clarke, who was working in the area at the time, was the second person to give evidence.

He described seeing four people in the water as he drove to find a new fishing spot.

Mr Clarke said there was "just a nice trickle of water" at the time.

"It was very peaceful," he said.

But things soon changed when the dam ruptured.

Mr Clarke said he saw a "wall of water" coming from the weir and yelled at the people swimming to get out.

"They were in all sorts of trouble … they were just trying to survive," he said.

The inquest continues.

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