TWO Tamworth men who launched a blow-up raft into the raging flood waters of the Peel River on Tuesday night put their own lives at risk - and those of rescuers - when they made the "dumbest of decisions".
The pair, aged 25 and 18, sparked a huge emergency rescue operation by local police and ambulance crews on Tuesday at about 8pm, when they jumped in an inflatable raft for a float down the flooded river.
"Words cannot describe the foolishness of their actions [on Tuesday] night, and the risk that it put emergency services in and themselves," Oxley Police Acting Superintendent Jeff Budd said on Wednesday.
The two men are down $750 each, after police slapped them both with two fines.
Acting Superintendent Budd said his first concern was for the police officers and ambulance crews who put their own lives in danger to save the boaters from where they became stranded among trees in the middle of the river.
"We put people with families into a situation where they had to rescue two people who had made the dumbest of decisions to jump in the swollen flood water and float down the river," he said.
"Police don't have watercraft so they had to physically get in there with ropes and wearing lifejackets and suits and get those fellows out of the trees in harnesses."
It is understood the two men launched the blow-up boat behind Hungry Jack's on dusk, but didn't make it very far before the flimsy craft was damaged and caught up in trees.
"These guys are lucky to be alive and the information we had was that the trees were about to snap off and they would have floated down the river, so they could have very well ended up a long way down without a life raft," Acting Superintendent Budd told the Leader.
Ambulance NSW confirmed there were six crews sent to the scene. The two men were not seriously hurt but were taken to Tamworth hospital for assessment.
"Their actions were really silly and I really encourage people to think about what they're doing in flood waters, we're really lucky last night wasn't a tragedy," Acting Superintendent Budd said.
"It was almost fatal."
He confirmed the pair were not intoxicated when they were dragged from the muddy water.
Acting Superintendent Budd told the press pack gathered outside the police station on Wednesday there had been several serious but relatively minor incidents during heavy rain and flooding during the past few days.
A flood warning from the NSW State Emergency Service (SES) on Wednesday morning said the Peel River peaked at more than 4m at 7pm on Tuesday.
New England North West SES deputy zone commander Mitch Parker said his volunteer crews were "kaput" after "working their guts out" to keep the community safe during the deluge.
"The SES responded to more than 100 calls for assistance in the past probably 48 hours," he said.