Queensland town plans fundraiser for family grieving after Wyaralong Dam crash

Queensland town plans fundraiser for family grieving after Wyaralong Dam crash
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Community members of the rural town of Pratten, in Queensland’s Southern Downs, are turning their annual Christmas party into a fundraiser for a young family coping with the death of two children in a car accident at the Wyaralong Dam.

Leo Larsen, 13, and four-year-old Mia died when their family car veered off the road and became submerged in the dam on Sunday.

Pratten Progress and Preservation Association president Diane Lawlor said the news was confronting for members of the small town.

“Everybody’s in shock … initially people didn’t believe it,” Ms Lawlor said.

“Then, they started to think, ‘OK, what can I do to help’, which is what started [the fundraiser].”

The town’s annual Christmas party will be transformed into a fundraising event to help the family cover funerals expenses and manage other costs.

Diane Lawlor says the deaths of the two children have stunned the local community.(ABC News: Elly Bradfield)

“We’ll be passing around a big bucket and inviting people who can’t make it to the function to call in and make a donation or just drive past and drop off a donation,” Ms Lawlor said.

Ms Lawlor said the children were valuable members of the tight-knit community and their loss had been felt by all.

“The kids got on really well at school with the other kids,” she said.

Ms Lawlor said she had spoken to one of Leo’s classmates who was “stunned” and “couldn’t say much at all”.

A blue street sign that says Pratten next to a quiet sealed country road.
Pratten is a small town in Queensland’s Southern Downs, south of Toowoomba.(ABC News: Elly Bradfield)

She described the family as “helpful and friendly” and said they were always asking: “What can I do for you?”

“We all do that. Everyone supports each other here,” she said.

Carol Clarke and Esme Colley, who live in the Southern Downs, said the region was still coming to terms with the deaths.

A woman with blond hair & sunglasses stands next to a grey-haired woman in a summer outdoor setting.
Carole Clarke (left) and Esme Colley (right) say everyone in Warwick will be impacted by the deaths.(ABC News: Elly Bradfield)

“When you lose any child or any family to tragedy like that, it just affects everybody, especially this close to Christmas, it’s terrible,” Ms Clarke said.

Ms Colley said: “I lost an 18-year-old, so I know what it feels like, especially one so young,”

The adults in the car when the accident happened, Dylan Wadley, 23, and his partner Mel Martin, 33, are still recovering at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane.

A bouquet of flowers with pink wrapping sits on wire fence next to a dam in a wooded country area.
The family’s car left the road before ending up in Wyaralong Dam.(ABC News: Anna Hartley)

Their newborn daughter survived the crash, but the couple’s one-year-old son was airlifted to the Queensland Children’s Hospital in a critical condition.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said staff and students at the children’s schools were being offered support and counselling would be provided “for as long as it is needed”.

“The Darling Downs region is deeply saddened by the sudden deaths of two children,” the spokesperson said.

“Our thoughts and sincere sympathies go out to their family, caregivers, friends and loved ones during this difficult time.”

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