'The thing that saves you': Narrow 4WD escape for travelling family

It's a sight to give any four-wheel drive owner a sinking feeling.

Unable to budge their Landcruiser 200 series from deep sand on a Western Australian south west beach, a Mandurah family scrambled to free their toddlers as the incoming high tide surrounded them.

"We go down to Tims Thicket all the time," says mum Suzanne Jones of the ordeal. "Offroad beach driving, it's what we do.

"But the way we hit a soft bit of sand and the car just slid like it was on a conveyor belt right into the freaking wave break zone, it was terrifying."

Kindness of strangers: After a treacherous two-day ordeal, a tractor managed to pull them out.

Kindness of strangers: After a treacherous two-day ordeal, a tractor managed to pull them out.

They ground to a stop and a wave hit the car, depositing wet sand around all four tyres and cementing them in place. Waves battered the car, nearly knocking it over as she and husband, Jed worked to free it.

"Our first instinct was to get the car out because we've done it a hundred times before. But if I could re-live that, I would take the kids out instantly and not try to save the car," Suzanne said.

"We knew a storm was coming, one freak king wave could've washed the car away. As soon as that realisation hit, I got them out."

By that point, she couldn't open the driver's side where one-year-old Lettie was strapped in.

Once the children were rescued and up on the beach, she saved the water, food and clothing and climbed the dunes to find a phone signal and send a distress signal.

She spent many hours with the girls huddled under a tarp for protection from the wind before the first help arrived.

Eight 4WDs unsuccessfully tried to free the car, snapping numerous snatch straps weighted to 15 tonnes and a 6-tonne winch rope.

After a treacherous two-day ordeal, a tractor managed to get them out the following evening.

"One of the biggest things that's come out of this has been how much community here has come to our rescue," Suzanne said, speaking to the Mail from Windy Harbour, near Northcliffe.

She started receiving offers of help on her online travel blog, Keeping Up With Little Joneses.

"It's funny how the kindness of strangers can sometimes be the thing that saves you. Both in the physical sense of getting the car out and in helping me cope with the day."

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Both Lettie and three-year-old Maddie are still clingy after the harrowing experience and the family is now waiting on the RAC to assess the salt water-logged car.

"This won't put us off our travels or adventures but we'll definitely stick to wider beaches," Suzanne said.

The Jones family spend about half of their lives travelling. Suzanne works as a travel photographer and Jed at age 38 is retired from the mining industry and a "proud stay-at-home dad".

Life on the road with the Jones family.
This story 'The thing that saves you': Narrow 4WD escape for travelling family first appeared on Mandurah Mail.