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Vans appear as flood waters recede

Wednesday 16 Jan 2013 4:04 p.m.

The four tourists whose vans were swept away when Nelson’s Waimea River burst its banks yesterday have returned to the scene of the carnage.

Both vans appeared out of the murky water as the river levels dropped today, allowing a woman from Germany and three men from the United States to retrieve their belongings.

They had parked their converted Nissan campervans, one yellow and one silver, under the SH60 bridge near Appleby to shelter from heavy rain on Monday night.

But heavy rain swelled the river and washed the campervans down stream.

The yellow van, nicknamed 'Jake' by its owners, was found downstream on its side with the boot open.

Jake’s owner Jim Marshall says he feels incredible lucky to be alive, and will not be camping under any bridges again.

“You can just drown yourself in what-ifs in situations like this. My friends and loved ones are still alive. Be careful with flash floods, I guess.”

German tourist Anja Roth, who shared her silver van with Steve Harper, says the vehicle escaped serious harm and floated just 20 metres from the spot they parked it.

They found the van today covered in mud, silt, sand and grass.

“It’s nice to have some things," says Mr Harper. "Yesterday we assumed we’d have nothing. I’ve got shoes now, I didn’t have those yesterday."

The pair haven’t written the van off, and plan to get it back on the road.

“We have a lot of work to do," says Ms Roth. "If we can’t get it fixed, I won’t be getting a new one. This has been a bad luck van."

She says the van wasn't in the best condition before the flood, with a seized engine and dents from a minor crash.  

The duo say they have learnt their lesson and won’t camp near a river ever again.

Mr Harper, who escaped with his guitar during the flood, says the whole ordeal has provided some inspiration for him.

“I might write a song about being in the flood. That would be a good touch,” he says.

A salvage plan for the vans is yet to be finalised.

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