THE fertile, calcium-rich soils made it prime cattle and horse country, a 700-acre lot of Hunter Valley gold ripe for the picking.
But the lush, rolling hills which so easily attracted the eyes of potential buyers also hid a potentially deadly secret if you were caught out when the heavens opened.
Some of the property’s tracks, already covered with thick green pasture from a solid dumping of winter rain, could easily become dangerously slick.
And it is on one of these tracks, above a 200-metre high cliff on the Gundy property, about 30km from Scone, that experienced and highly-respected local real estate agent Adam O’Regan found himself driving his four-wheel drive on Monday along with a prospective buyer, as well the buyer’s elderly father and five-year-old son.
Investigators are still to determine why the four-wheel-drive plunged down the steep embankment and started to roll, killing the three men and injuring the little boy who was forced to witness the unthinkable.
But the muddied tyre marks above the fatal scene suggest the 25mm of rain received in the area on Monday morning could have prompted a slip even Mr O’Regan, a father of three, could not avoid.
“We think from our investigations on the scene they were attempting to manoeuvre the vehicle, turn it round, when he’s lost traction and slid over the edge,’’ Hunter Valley Inspector Guy Guiana said.
A neighbour and former owner of the property, who only wished to be identified as Bill, confirmed the area where the vehicle was discovered was notoriously slippery when damp.
And he also confirmed the morning 25mm dumping.
“It is very steep up the back,’’ Bill said.
“It only takes a bit of rain to be dangerous.
“It is just so unfortunate.’’
Inspector Guiana said it was not known exactly when the tragedy occurred, confirming the potential buyer, 42, and his five-year-old boy were from Sydney and the buyer’s father, 75, was from Queensland.
But it appeared the men had been ejected from the car, possibly because they were not wearing seatbelts.
Early investigations have suggested Mr O’Regan and the buyer died instantly, before the boy had to watch as his grandfather died and endure a wait of up to five hours before being rescued.
When asked whether the buyer and his father were found together, Inspector Guiana replied: “It would appear that the younger male, the son, was killed pretty much instantly.
"We've heard word that the father was alive for some time and may have made his way to his son."
The senior officer, who knew Mr O’Regan personally, was emotional as he spoke about the three deaths and possibility that the car slipped before gathering pace.
“Yeah look, Adam has been an agent in the area for many, many years,’’ Inspector Guiana said.
“Obviously he would have done this hundreds of times, driven on properties.
“By all accounts, he’s a very experienced and careful four-wheel drive operator.
“I guess it just goes to show that even with experience and care, accidents can happen.’’
It is understood the alarm was first raised when Mr O’Regan failed to return back to his work at the Landmark Townsend real estate agency in Scone for further consultations.
Inspector Guiana said he could not confirm whether a phone call to the potential buyer’s mobile, which was made after Adam’s phone went unanswered, was picked up by the distressed, injured boy.
Colleagues and neighbours were able to make their way to the crash scene and rescue the boy, who had suffered a broken arm and broken nose.
The bodies of the three men, all of whom had been thrown clear of the car, were found nearby.
Asked if it was a miracle the boy had survived, Inspector Guiana said: “Certainly, and [we] can only imagine the trauma he’s gone through given one was his father and one was his grandfather.’’
“He was injured. I don’t really know exactly what sort of state he was in but by all accounts he’s talking to his family this morning and seems to be recovering well.’’
The boy’s devastated family, which had travelled to Sydney to be with him in John Hunter Children’s Hospital, issued a short statement on Tuesday.
“Yesterday our family suddenly lost a father and a grandfather,’’ the statement said.
“Our son, who thankfully sustained non-life threatening injuries, is understandably shaken and it is our family’s number one priority to be there and care for him as he recovers.
“As we support our son through his recovery we are also grieving the loss of two loved ones.
“We request peace and privacy at this incredibly difficult time for our family.’’
Family and friends of Mr O’Regan, a father of three, also paid tribute to him.
“Adam was an exceptional, one-of-a-kind father, husband, son, brother and friend,” his family said in a statement.
“We appreciate your respect of our grief and privacy at this time.”
Mr O’Regan, the son of long-term Narrabri community leader and councillor Bevan O’Regan, had been an estate agent in Sydney before moving back to the region.
He was a director of the residential and rural business of Landmark Harcourts in Scone and, according to his business profile, was involved in local rugby, polo and pony clubs, and the Aberdeen Campdraft.
Scone Polo Club president Peter White said Mr O'Regan established deep links to the community in a relatively short period of time.
The former real estate agent was a former secretary of the polo club, as well as being a member of various other clubs including the Aberdeen Pony Club, Scone Rugby Club and Aberdeen Campdraft.
"He was a real gentleman, but most of all, he was a contributor," Mr White said.
"Adam was a young man, he had a young family, he came to Scone and he fit in very well. If the world was made up of more people like Adam, it would be a better place."
Mr White said the polo club was feeling "smashed" by the tragedy.
"He was an extremely well-liked person, and with all his contacts as an agent, his kids in school, he had very deep connections in the community.
“We've had tragedies before, but Scone is going to reel on this one.
“This is going to affect us for a very long time."
Family friend Robert Davidson, who got to know each other through junior rugby union, also paid emotional tribute to his mate.
“He was a really top bloke and will be sadly missed,’’ Mr Davidson said.
“He was the best of us. It is a real shock.’’
Scone High School principal Paul Smart added: “The local family affected by the tragic accident yesterday near Scone is a well-respected family who are part of our school community. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time.”
"Today the school council and executive have been working on supporting the family and the members of the community who have been impacted by this significant loss."
Bill, the former owner of the property who helped authorities with the operation, said Mr O’Regan was very well-known around the farming and rural communities.
“He is a lovely guy. A very well liked, well-known man. He was always happy and cheery,’’ he said.
The tragedy, which was only discovered about 5pm on Monday, continued through Tuesday with the salvage operation hindered by the country and the conditions.
At least one police four-wheel drive became bogged at the scene.
SafeWork NSW is also investigating the crash.