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Doctor can never forget Cowper horror

ONE PATIENT AT A TIME: Dr Ray Jones drove to the scene of the Cowper bus crash on October 20, 1989, to do what he could to help.
ONE PATIENT AT A TIME: Dr Ray Jones drove to the scene of the Cowper bus crash on October 20, 1989, to do what he could to help. Adam Hourigan

TWENTY-five years on from the tragic 1989 collision at Cowper, the Clarence Valley community still remembers.

Dr Ray Jones was at the scene, and will be at the community memorial service at Cowper this morning to pay homage to one of Australia's most devastating highway collisions.

"It was one of the most significant events that happened in my lifetime, in my professional and personal life," he said.

"It's the sort of thing you never forget.

"That's why people are still coming back 25 years later."

Dr Jones was out jogging just on dawn when his earphones crackled with reports of the crash on the radio.

"I knew they'd need doctors, so I hopped in the car and drove out to the Pacific Highway," he said.

"It was a dreadful scene, I remember it vividly.

"The living were in the middle of the road, under the light, covered in blankets.

"We just worked through one patient at a time."

That crash, and the possibility it may not have occurred had the highway been wider at that location, sparked a seed in the doctor which grew to become an outspoken passion for better roads.

Dr Jones, as the spokesman for Doctors for a Safe Pacific Highway, has actively and outspokenly campaigned for the Pacific Highway to be upgraded for years, especially in sections with single carriageways.

He praised the most recent funding for the Woolgoolga to Ballina Highway upgrade, and for the rest of the Pacific Highway.

"They've finally got the idea that maybe they should fix things," he said.

"It'll be wonderful once it's done - so many people have been killed on that stretch of road."

Two months after Cowper, 35 people were killed and 41 injured when two buses collided at Clybucca Flat, north of Kempsey.

The memorial service to mark the 25th anniversary of the Cowper crash will be held today from 11am at the memorial erected at Cowper, on the old highway north along the Cowper turnoff.

All are welcome to attend.

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