Donna Rice, 43, and her sons, Jordan, 13, and Blake, 10, were trapped in their car Monday by a flash flood in Toowoomba, about 80 miles west of Brisbane, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. Warren McErlean found the family standing on the roof of the car.
Jordan told him to take Blake first, McErlean said later. He was able to get Blake to safety, although it was a near thing, but the water pulled Rice and Jordan away as they tried to hold on to a tree.
John Tyson, Rice's longtime partner and the boys' father, said Jordan was afraid of the water.
"I can only imagine the fear coursing through his body," Tyson said.
McErlean came to his house while he was out and talked to his brother, Tyson said.
"Apparently he's pretty cut up about not being able to get Jordan and Donny, but he tried his a--- off," Tyson said.