Man killed by snapped recovery strap in QLD

A 51-year-old man has been killed by a snapped recovery strap whilst he was assisting in recovering a bogged vehicle north of Mackay in Queensland, yesterday. At this time not a great deal is known, however the strap being used has broken, or the point it was attached to on the front of the bogged vehicle has snapped causing it to fly through the rear windscreen and hit the driver in the head.

Emergency services attempted to revive the man near the Gregory River, 150 kilometres north of Mackay, however he was declared deceased at the scene. Our sympathies and condolences are with his family and those involved with the incident.


The incident serves as a timely warning, both to ensure you’re using the appropriate equipment, and as safely as possible. Factory fitted points to the vast majority of 4X4’s are only to be used as tie down points whilst it is being towed on a trailer or tow truck, or to be flat towed with minimal resistance on the vehicle. Not while they have 40 tonnes of mud in front of them, and require eight tonnes of pulling power to get them out! They are neither rated to be used as recovery points, nor are they built to take the strain of being “snatched” out with a snatch strap.


Recovering a vehicle is an inherently risky and dangerous task, and regardless of what you do, you will never be able to fully remove all danger and risk from performing a recovery. The best that we can do is do it as safely as possible, and using rated recovery points (and rated high tensile bolts) attached directly to the chassis of the vehicle goes a long way to mitigating the risk involved.

“Winch Dampers” are another tool which we should all have access to (which aren’t even accurately named – “recovery damper” may have made more sense) – they too can and should be used on snatch and tow straps to minimise the kinetic energy of a broken strap (or winch rope), and anything steel attached to the end of it.

Be safe! Get a mate to help out and make sure you’re using all the right gear!

It seems that every year we hear in our community of 4x4er’s, someone suffers a serious injury or death whilst a recovery is being performed. Anyone who says “If they were using the right gear properly it would never have happened” is just wrong – you can never completely remove the risk and danger from a recovery. You can however, go a bloody long way to minimising it.

Do the right thing, be safe, and use all the tools you can to ensure you, your mates, and your family get home safe every time. And always be the first to offer a bit of advice to the younger generation out on the tracks that you see doing it the wrong way. Chances are they don’t know any better, and 5 minutes of your time, lending them your damper, and giving them some pointers on how to do it safely, might just save someone’s life.

Have you ever been in front of a snapped recovery strap? What could you have done differently, or did you do everything right to survive it? Make sure you stay tuned to Unsealed 4X4 as we’ll be doing an updated series on the best and safest way’s to recovery a 4X4, to minimise the risk involved.

If you want to learn more about snatch straps check out our extensive review and results in Unsealed 4X4


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  • What about using the jack, on a big wooden block as a base, to lift the vehicle out of the sand or mud as far as possible? Planks (which you have also brought along) can then be put under the wheels, allowing for driving out, or at least an easy tow.

    An extra half hour or hour spent unbogging is better than spending many hours fixing or paying for the damage repairs later, and it is generally safer.

  • I will always look for rated or factory fitted recovery points (not tie down or tow points) if assisting someone who is stuck (in pre recovery point days I always put chains round the chassis of the vehicle that needed help).

    Coming out of Palm Valley 4 weeks ago we arrived as someone else “helped” an 80 series Landscruiser stuck in sand on the track and watched a lesson that showed everything wrong – snatch strap was put over the towball of the 80 series and the watchers were well within the range of the strap!

    Fortunately nothing broke in this instance – but as we drove past I asked about tyre pressures – to be told the Landcruiser was running road tyre pressures!

    As an aside there were people bragging on Wickicamps about dragging their vans into Palm Valley “without having to let their tyres down” – just adding to the ruts I guess……

    As well as outback travelling we have had over 20 years experience of launching and retrieving big dive boats (including my Shark Cat) off beaches at Wilsons Promontory and the like with never a single vehicle bogged – tyre pressures were the first port of call followed by proper rated cables and shackles as recovery gear for the boats.

    Pete’s comment about using the high lift jack and shovel is bloody good advice – the only way we
    could retrieve an FJ40 Landcruiser bogged down to the floor pan on the track to Tibooburra in 1990 was to use the high lift jack and pack under the wheels. Took over an hour but it worked…… Kerry and Jerry from Bendigo were more than pleased with the assistance!

  • How about using a high lift jack to lift the vehicle up out of the ground prior to snatching the vehicle out. This will considerably reduce the forces involved when snatching or winching. Unfortunately many people are not prepared to get out and use the high lift jack and shovel prior to getting the snatch strap out.

  • I’m one of those that sit in the – don’t use a dampener when snatching – camp.
    What are the chances of you guys doing some sort of Mythbusters style testing to prove either way if a dampener is effective when snatching. Don’t forget to test the newb method of – gun it and hope I pull you out.

  • the ‘tow’ hooks on the front and rear of a 4×4 vehicle are not supposed to be used as recovery points. why is that? Every manufacturer of off road vehicles KNOW that that is exactly what they are used for. for the sake of around $10 in steel they could fit safe, heavy duty hooks. simple, safe and easy.
    wonder why vehicle reviewers are not calling out manufacturers over this? maybe if they chastised them, they’d lose the review vehicles.

  • Sad news,Condolences to family, In my own experience I learned the hard way never to join a rope or strap to a chain, if extra length is needed for recovery. Big cab over truck bogged at Winton, wet black soil country tow vehicle big fwd truck, High tensile chain attached to front of my truck , 50 mm ships rope attached to tow vehicle to reach distance. rope broke chain stood up like a snake, I just had time to close my eyes as windscreen exploded and I was showered in glass. I was lucky that the chain was long enough to go right over the top of the cab , but it left a permanent imprint of chin links in the front of the truck,and top of the cab.

  • With monocoque construction creeping into the 4WD field, I would question the advisability of using a single recovery point. A sharp jerk on one corner could result in distortion of the whole body. If snatch recovery is considered necessary I would suggest a “Y” connection to two evenly placed recovery points. A properly installed winch overcomes this problem and allows unassisted recovery. Why go bush expecting someone else to be available sould you bog your vehicle.

  • This just shouts out to me that 4WD’s should have appropriately rated recover points from factory. What did they think we would do with the tow hooks on 4WD’s!!!

  • Paul, I got 2 Road safe recovery points on the front of my 2012 Ranger. Bright Yellow ones, Also Arb makes one that is connected to the bash plate. These are the only ones I could find. There both rated, but not cheap. But they are what you need.

  • Quite a while back a friend was helping a fellow person in need using a snatch strap, when the “snatch” occured the tow point on the stuck vehicle sheared the under-rated bolts that had been inadvertantly fitted.
    The tow hook struck and penetrated the tailgate on my friends Hilux and left a sizable dent in the rear cab bulkhead, if it had of hit slightly higher it would have struck the rear window!
    They were not using a dampener on the strap.

    Be aware of the dangers, take precautions, check the gear.

  • If you are going to do an article on Snatch straps, how about including some data on the forces involved during a recovery? That and the misguided belief that bigger stronger strap is better, help cause incidences. It’s actually the other way round.
    One of the 4WD clubs in Perth (TeamW4) has a write up on the real forces involved in snatch strap use and what is required for a good snatch strap, in one of their recent club magazines. Written by a mechanical engineer. I am sure the club wouldn’t mind if you used it, if you asked.
    It opened my eyes and made me think…..

  • Gday ,whilst you are quite right about snatching from only rated points ,its interesting how tow ball failure and in fact failure in alot of areas is quite a recent thing. Im guessing cheap steel and low quality castings. Its everywhere now from tie rod ends to thermostat housings. .truth is ,if your guna go in the bush and push your car to the limit you should make sure you have good quality gear where it matters.

  • I beg to differ Phil G, a twisted tea towel flicked at a window and break the glass and that’s with the human hand, imagine a strap with strength and power it would have on it, whether it had a metal shackle would most definately break a windscreen.

  • A broken strap will not break through a windscreen and kill someone – I’m guessing the news reports were a bit simplistic. Would have to be a broken recovery point probably with a shackle attached. Don’t just use quality gear but get gear that is correctly rated. An oversize 15,000kg strap with a heavy 4.7T shackle is a more lethal weapon than a 8000kg strap and no shackle.

  • There is also an issue of trying to get rated recovery points for an existing vehicle. I have a BT50 but no-one makes recovery points for the front that can be use with the bull bar I have in place. What are the suggestions in a situation like this??

  • You can train, scrutinize, regulate and rate any 4×4 product or the use of, until the cows come home but unfortunately it will never change the she’ll be right mentality of most people. It’s only after an indecent like this that people stand back and think about the consequences of unsafe activities for nano second and next week “she’ll be right” springs back into action.

  • “Winch Dampers” SHOULD NOT be use on snatch recoverys.
    If snatch strap breaks or proper recovery hook straightens a strap can do some damage but add a winch dampener as a missile becomes even more dangerous. They are no heavy enough to make any difrences given the forces involved bit heavy enough to cause injury!

  • Just like you never walk under an unsecured load on a forklift,if the load falls you are clear and not hurt,
    Look after yourself is the motto

  • maquach, simply open the email page, scroll to the bottom, click on ‘update subscription’, in there you will find an ‘unsubscribe’ button.

  • i’ve contacted you multiple times to have my email removed from your mailing list. please remove or i will take this to the ombudsman

  • Without naming brands, it pays to ensure you purchase the best quality recovery gear, from reputable Australian companies. Learn how to use them! There are many times that recovery gear is used where something as simple as dropping your tyre pressure an extra couple of psi will get you out without the need to snatch or winch. Unfortunately too many hit the tracks and leave the most important recovery item at home. Their brain!

  • It’s not the Chinese companies its the Australian companies that have these 4×4 equipment
    made in China to Australian standards which are lower then any other country in the world

    The Australian government needs to sort out the standards and stop all the rubbish thats
    coming into Australia

  • Robert,
    yes you are probably correct. Remember the snatch strap tests done a couple of years ago?
    Ironman tested WELL under spec and had to pull their stock from the shelves.
    I can’t remember if they did a recall though.

  • 20th March, 2018

    Fascinating read. Dare I say this but maybe some recovery training is needed, courses in 4wd clubs (?). Equipment ratings aren’t enough. Some Chinese companies will fake anything to make money (and they are not the only ones). We don’t know about equipment failures until is it epidemic and then there is a ‘recall’ which might be effective. Some buyers in large companies buy on cosmetic value (does it look marketable) and are given the seller’s word that something has a specification (that maybe it does not) and a corporate buyer, thus assured, buys at a favourable price for their company (without TESTING). Later when an accident occurs, they withdraw the product (sometimes) will offer a recall (sometimes) and some of the product will be sent back by the end-users (if they get the recall notice). Meanwhile there’s still piles of the product out there being used or given to friends or sold on the second-user market. Contamination of parts stocks by fake or under-specification products was a very big problem in the aircraft industry right across the world years ago (now under control I believe), but I have no idea if fake aircraft parts caused deaths. I do know that a Chinese-made nose gear for a Boeing aircraft (type unknown to me) was put into service where it collapsed on the first heavy landing after being weakened by many landings prior and well before its service life was considered finished. Materials used were well under specification.

    If some Chinese companies will fake cutlery like well-known brand name American-made knives, and other companies will fake branded components like a nose gear for jet aircraft – then it would be reasonable to assume that hand-winches, shackles, snatch-straps, welded products (attaching to vehicles) can be suspect too, depending on sources.

    Who can test recovery components, who is required to test, are there laws in place to compel standards or testing, is there a ratings system, can a safety ratings system or accreditation system be built in Australia? I think if anyone in the world can build such a system it is Australians – we tend to be pioneers with numerous examples in our history. We should do it.

    It is about time we:

    Establish standards.
    RATE and MARK all proven products for safety for recovering light vehicles.
    Rate companies for the safety of components (manufacturers, suppliers).
    Identify sources of fake components.
    Demand the government act on fake or under-specification component suppliers.
    Set up an ‘umbrella’ organisation for 4wd clubs to provide a unified voice.

    Safety is paramount. Speed of action is needed.

  • Please advise me where did you get this information from and the date it was published
    As yet after viewing the QLD police news section I can find no mention

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