‘It sounded like fireworks!’ Nomad’s gum tree fright

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Gum tree falls
It could have all been so very different!

Any grey nomad who has ever heard the nightmare sound of cracking branches or watched in horror as a giant tree limb crashes unexpectedly to earth will never need telling about the dangers of gum trees.

Long-term traveller John can now be added to the list of those who have witnessed just how real the potential for tragedy is at so many of our campsites … and who will never again park anywhere near a gum.

He was at the Frank Potts Reserve free camping area near the South Australian town of Langhorne Creek last week when the giant gum limb (pictured) fell.

Gum tree falls near a caravan at a free camp

The gum limb fell near two caravans at a free campsite

“I was standing only about 10 metres away and it sounded like fireworks going off,” he said. “The branch took about 10 seconds of slowly getting lower and lower until it finally gave way … the branch was actually the main trunk that had bent 10 feet up and was growing over at 45 degrees.”

John said the occupants of a nearby caravan that were nearly ‘cleaned up’ quickly decided enough was enough.

“The other people in the pictured van didn’t say much as they were busy packing up to leave straight away,” he said. “But you could see that they felt very, very lucky that they didn’t stop a few metres earlier!”

Apparently, the campsite had been vacated the week before due to a large storm with high winds and heavy rains which had caused flooding and seen other branches fall.

“The campsite has a toilet, bins and some table and chairs and could house 20 plus vans with half being under branches,” said John. “It was quite amazing to actually witness a big branch come down in front of you … no way will I ever park under one ever again.”

The same can probably be said of the owners of a Ute and camper trailer that were crushed by a large river red gum branch at Golden Beach on the Victorian side of the Murray River near Cobram recently.

Luckily, the travellers were away from the site for the morning when the incident occurred, and no-one was hurt.

Grey nomads and others are now being urged to look up and consider trees and branches before setting up camp.

‘‘We are advising people not to camp, park their cars or shelter under trees as increased temperatures and the water logging that the ground has received since the October floods has meant an increase in trees falling over and limbs dropping,’’ said North East Victoria SES operations manager, Neil Payn. “This is a timely reminder that limbs can fall unpredictably and can cause serious injury and death.

He also warned that limbs can swing out beyond the drip line (the edge of the canopy) of a tree.

  • Have you ever – or do you ever – park under a gum tree? Comment below.


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5 Responses to ‘It sounded like fireworks!’ Nomad’s gum tree fright

  1. We had a similar experience just last week at the Rotary Park at Echuca on the river.
    In the middle of the night a rather large branch – limb cracked off and fell into the Campaspe River. Now if the branch had fallen off on the opposite side of the tree we would have a threesome in our bed. Not a pleasant thought. Our fault as we choose to park under the large Gum tree for shade. I guess one of the risks of camping under large and old trees.

  2. They aren’t called widow makers for nothing

  3. No way known,I have seen many limbs and trees drop down particularily on a hot calm day .

  4. We try not to park under a tree for shade etc . Although tempting the damage done when it comes is not worth the risk to life or property .Use awnings to block out the sun , they are cheaper

  5. Having a van with 4 solar panels on the roof, we are always looking for camping spots in the sun, and have been for the last 10 years or so. However a close friend of our son was killed sitting in a front end loader having lunch under a gum tree which dropped a major branch onto the cab and killed him.

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