Thursday 15th October was the anniversary of the tragic West Gate Bridge Collapse.
Parliament paused to remember the 35 lost workers at 1150am.
There was a number of excellent contributions from across the political spectrum. Wendy Lovell (LIB), Mark Gepp (Labor) and many more, however I would like to share the Hansard speech from my friend and colleague Andy Meddick (AJP).
Mr MEDDICK (Western Victoria) (11:41): I just want to start by saying that I thank the members in this chamber who gave up their members statements today to talk about this terrible tragedy, those who have with great courage—I know it was very difficult emotionally for them, and I thank Ms Lovell and Mr Gepp—talked about those intensely personal experiences surrounding this tragedy. That is what we need reminding of. We need reminding that at 50 years it seems such a long time in the past for the rest of us. Many generations of Victorians and Australians would be shocked to hear that such a thing had occurred. It is not taught in schools; it is not in the consciousness. But we should be reminded of it because 35 people lost their lives—family members, husbands, fathers—and the effects of that have rolled down the years.
I just want to let people from this chamber and the other place know that there is a memorial set up on a table in Queen’s Hall. Please feel free to go there, stand at that memorial, take your photos and share them to your social media pages—members from all sides of politics—because this is an incident where we can all join together and put aside personal and political differences and remember those people and remember the tragedy that is still occurring because of that accident, down through the years.
Today marks 50 years since that section of the West Gate Bridge collapsed during construction, killing 35 workers and injuring 18 more. I will not try to speak on behalf of those workers. I have stood in this place many times and talked about my associations with trade unionism. I have talked about the incidents that I have been associated with. But alluding to my earlier remarks, I think what needs to be spoken about is the stories of those men and the stories of the people who were around that day.
I am going to quote a far better wordsmith than I, and it is from a recent ABC News online article about the day when 2000 tonnes of concrete and steel came crashing to the muddy ground:
Pat Preston was waiting for Paddy—
Hanaphy— at the base of the lift in his small runabout crane when he heard what he thought was the crackling of gunfire, but was actually the sound of bolts pinging from the frame of the bridge.
Ian Miller, the engineer who’d been chatting to Paddy just seconds before, landed on the ground a metre from Pat.
A young carpenter, Ross Bigmore, landed just to his left.
They were both dead.
‘I can still see their faces actually,’ Pat said.
‘It was one of those days you’ll never forget your whole life.’
The men who survived the collapse uninjured instantly set about trying to help those who were not so lucky.
Men who’d fallen from the bridge into the river emerged battered and broken, covered in oil and mud.
Some didn’t emerge at all.
Pat Preston remembers carrying injured men to safety using a broken door as a makeshift stretcher.
He stayed at the site until daylight the next morning, listening for noises from survivors.
‘It wasn’t until I got home the next morning that it all hit me.’
Today I wear a white rose in remembrance of those workers, and I have placed another 52 on a table in Queen’s Hall. On 35 of them is a card with the name of a worker who did not survive.
On my card is Peter Dawson, rigger. And I remember him. Today I want us all to remember what happened at 11.50 am on 15 October 1970. I want us all to remember the 35 dead and 18 injured—comrades all, victims all.