Jordan Rice, 13, Tragic Hero of Australia Floods

Jordan Rice, 13, at left, died after insisting his brother Blake, at right, be rescued first from their flooded car in Australia.
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It's common for one personality to emerge as the face of tragedy, and Australia's deadly floodwaters have now claimed just such a hero to embody all that is good in the human character.

At least 25 people have died since relentless rains started pounding the eastern state of Queensland in November, but the death of 13-year-old Jordan Rice has captivated the nation.

On Monday, rapidly rising water engulfed a car carrying Rice, his mother and his brother in the hard-hit town of Toowoomba. The torrent knocked over the first person who attempted to reach the stranded family.

A second man managed to reach the car, but when he tried to pull Jordan out, the teenager insisted his 10-year-old brother Blake be saved first. Jordan couldn't swim.

Before the rescuer, Warren McErlean, could return to the car, a rope he was clinging to snapped. The car flipped over and Jordan and his mother Donna were carried away by the floodwater. They both died.

"Jordan was swept off," John Tyson, Donna Rice's long-time partner and Jordan's dad, told The Telegraph.

"As soon as he went, Donna just let go, you know, trying to clutch at Jordan. The poor little boy, they just both drowned."

"He (the rescuer) went to grab Jordan first, who said, 'Save my brother'. I can only imagine the fear coursing through his body."

"Courage kicked in, and he would rather his little brother would live," Jordan's older brother Kyle, 16, told The Australian newspaper.

The incident left McErlean distraught. He told Australian television in an emotional interview that he was deeply saddened by his inability to save all the boys.

"I just kept telling the boy (Jordan) that it was going to be alright, but it wasn't. I just feel terrible for himself and his family. I just couldn't get him out."

On Twitter, a wave of tweets have dubbed Jordan the "true hero" of the Queensland floods.

  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.

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