Wollongong council awaits coroner’s report after flood tragedy

The Riley Park drain (left) and another drain - which is fitted with a meshed grille - elsewhere in Unanderra, at Derribong Drive. Photo on the right taken on Monday, after last week's heavy rain.

The Riley Park drain (left) and another drain - which is fitted with a meshed grille - elsewhere in Unanderra, at Derribong Drive. Photo on the right taken on Monday, after last week's heavy rain.

Wollongong City Council says it will wait for a report from the coroner before considering any changes to its stormwater and drainage systems following the death of 11-year-old Ryan Teasdale.

The Lindsay Park Public School student died last Thursday night after being swept down a drain at Riley Park, around the corner from his house, while he was playing with other children in the gushing water on his boogie board.

His body was found on Friday morning about 500 metres from the drain opening at the downhill end of the Unanderra park.

The tragedy has prompted many Illawarra residents to question why the stormwater opening was not covered by a grate or some other covering.

Read more: Hearts break for Ryan’s family after Unanderra tragedy

However, the council said grates, in some cases, could increase the risk of blockages and flooding and were not used on all types of drains.

“The size of the culvert [drain tunnel], likelihood of blockage, consequences of culvert blocking and causing flooding elsewhere and the depth of flood waters at the location are all considered when deciding if culverts have grates placed over them,” the council said, when asked why Riley Park’s drain did not have a cover.

Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery joined search crews at Riley Park, Unanderra, on Friday morning. Picture: Adam McLean.

Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery joined search crews at Riley Park, Unanderra, on Friday morning. Picture: Adam McLean.

A council spokeswoman said small drains frequently blocked, with grates increasing the likelihood of flooding for surrounding homes.

Asked if the council would consider changing its policies on drain coverings, or whether it would review its stormwater systems the council said it would “await the coroner’s report and co-operate fully with those enquiries”.

The council collected nearly $1.8 million from ratepayers to fund stormwater management in 2016/17, and budgeted to spend $4.45 million on stormwater and floodplain assets in the same year.

Read more: Unanderra flood tragedy: Melissa Teasdale knew her missing son's fate

Meantime, the communities of Lindsay Park Public School and Figtree High School – where Ryan’s older brother Jason Teasdale attends – have pulled together to support their grieving students.

“Lindsay Park Public School and the Department of Education are deeply saddened by the death of one of its students,” the school said in a statement.

“Our thoughts are with the young boy’s family and friends at such a difficult time.”

“The schools will continue to support the family and will make decisions around additional support in conjunction with their school community and the young boy’s family.”

Counselling has been provided to students and staff at both schools and will be available for as long as necessary. 

The schools have also sent home letters to parents detailing ways they can help children to understand and cope with grief.

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