Shock at death on flooded crossing

Suffolk Park man Mark Tiernan who died crossing a flood causeway.
Suffolk Park man Mark Tiernan who died crossing a flood causeway.

FAMILY and friends are mourning the sudden and tragic loss of a Suffolk Park man who died after trying to cross a flooded causeway in the State’s south.

Mark Tiernan was working at Boree Creek, north of Lockhart, in southern NSW, in one of the many seasonal work stints he undertook while away from his Byron Shire home.

About 2.30am on Sunday – his 51st birthday – Mr Tiernan attempted to cross a causeway flooded by a swollen creek.

Police said the Toyota Hilux utility he was driving was swept off the road, which flood indicators showed had about one metre of water flowing across it.

A 25-year-old man, a passenger in the vehicle and believed to be a work colleague, escaped from the truck and flagged down a passing State Emergency Service crew.

The crew located the submerged truck about 400 metres away from where it entered the water about 9.30am on Sunday.

Police divers found Mr Tiernan’s body in the submerged vehicle later that afternoon.

Wagga Wagga Local Area Command Inspector Darren Gobbe said the unfortunate incident was a timely reminder for people to stay away from floodwaters.

He said Mr Tiernan was driving from the property where he was living to a neighbouring property.

Best friend and Byron Bayresident Greg Daniels said Mr Tiernan would have driven across that causeway “hundreds of times” before.

“He has had a couple of near misses in his life, so we keep expecting him to just pop up again,” Mr Daniels said.

Mr Tiernan and Mr Daniels became best friends while att-ending Mullumbimby High School together, and Mr Tiernan was the best man at Mr Daniels’ wedding in 1990.

After growing up at Wategos Beach, where his family’s snooker table provided a fond source of the entertainment for his friends in their teenage days, Mr Tiernan frequently jetsetted around the country and the world, trying out different professions and lifestyles, MrDaniels said.

“He loved life and has always been a worker,” he said. “He lived and worked in London when he was younger and had a lot of different jobs, but was always working.

"He would pick up six-month stints and then come back home.”

Mr Tiernan’s parents were driving from their Suffolk Park home to visit their son when they received the terrible news, Mr Daniels said.

A keen sportsman, Mr Tiernan played for the Byron Bay Red Devils Rugby League Football Club in his early 20s and was a member of the Byron Bay Malibu Club.

Nicknamed ‘Esky’ or ‘Tinhead’, everyone had a story to tell about Mr Tiernan – the eldest of six children.

“Mark was the first bloke I have ever seen to do a goose step (football technique) before it was even invented,” former fellow football player Jeff Barnes said.

“You mention his name and there would not be a person in the room that would not know him.”

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