WE WERE THERE: Bus tragedy on the Pacific Highway

TERRIBLE SCENE: The Cowper Bus Crash picture flashed around the world.
TERRIBLE SCENE: The Cowper Bus Crash picture flashed around the world.

WE WERE THERE is a series that revisits The Daily Examiner's in-depth coverage of the major events that have shaped the Clarence Valley over the past 20 years. Today we look at the Cowper bus crash.

JUST hours after a passenger bus with 45 passengers and a truck laden with tinned pineapple juice collided on the Pacific Highway at Cowper killing 21 people and injuring another 22, The Daily Examiner was there to record what became known as the Cowper Bus Crash.

The horrifying pictures from that terrible scene on October 20, 1989, shot around the world.

In terms of road deaths at the time it was Australia's worst traffic accident and there would be repercussions for years.

It heralded huge changes in the transport industry because the the truck driver, who was killed in the accident had 80 times the therapeutic level of ephedrine in his blood.

CAMPAIGNER: Bryan Robins at the site of the Cowper Bus Crash Photo Adam Hourigan
CAMPAIGNER: Bryan Robins at the site of the Cowper Bus Crash Photo Adam Hourigan

The coroner also called for the upgrade of the Pacific Highway from Sydney to Brisbane from single lane to dual lane in the next five years. A quarter of a century later that recommendation is still to be fulfilled.

The accident also took an enormous toll on the emergency services personnel who attended the scene.

SES personnel, police and other people who pulled people dead and alive from the wreckage were later diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

The Daily Examiner played a vital part in the latest chapter of the Cowper Bus Crash saga, working with a former SES controller Bryan Robins and the Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis to ensure each SES member who attended the crash received individual commendations.

Twenty-five years to the day after the accident the NSW Government finally handed out individual certificates of thanks.

Mr Robins said if it wasn't for The Daily Examiner campaigning on this issue, the recognition for the SES workers might never have come.

Topics:  accident grafton history reporting we were there series

Since I was 5, I have had one dream: to save the world

SOLUTIONS: B Alternative's Gina Lopez and Loki Martin and were at Surfing the Coldstream festival to increase awareness of environmental issues.

"The changes we make to the planet now will be present for millenia"

LETTER: Photo normalises unacceptable situation

The controversial photograph showing a family with all the females with their mouths taped shut and the father holding a sign reading "peace on earth" shown during the principal's address at the McAuley Catholic College Year 12 Graduation Ceremony last month.

Resident clarifies community sentiment towards offensive photograph

OPINION: Safety nets entangled in the shark debate

A shark trapped in fishing nets was released by Kelli Anderson, a keen environmentalist and diver.

Photo EcoDivers

Freedom from fear versus entanglement of marine animals

Local Partners

Green light for sports centre to re-open

NEW operators hoping existing users will return to sports centre and get 'business back to normal'.

Tea party with the 'Queen'

TRADITION: 1955 Jacaranda Queen Stella Wilson sits with reigning 2015 Jacaranda Queen Charlotte White at last year's Jacaranda Afternoon Tea.

Meet the royal patyu in style

Making steps for 'Blacky' in Walk 4 Brain Cancer

Grafton locals are doing a Walk 4 Brain Cancer in Sydney for Robert Black.

Team Blacky aims to better $5000 to battle brain cancer.

Sound of Music star to compere An Afternoon at the Proms

This photo provided by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment shows, from left, Chairmian Carr, as Liesl, Nicholas Hammond, as Friedrich, Heather Menzies, as Louisa, Duane Chase, as Kurt, Angela Cartwright, as Brigitta, Debbie Turner, as Marta, Kym Karath, as Gretl, and Christopher Plummer, as Captain Von Trapp, in a scene from the film, \"The Sound of Music.\" The 1965 Oscar-winning film adaptation of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical \"The Sound of Music\" is celebrating its 50th birthday in 2015. To honor the milestone, 20th Century Fox is releasing a five-disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD collector's edition, the soundtrack is being re-released, the film will be screened at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood later this month and to over 500 movie theaters in April. (AP Photo/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Saraton's rich history of stage and screen honoured in musical tribu

Kanye West threatens to boycott Grammys

West says he won't go to the Grammys if Frank Ocean's not nominated

Why this actress wasn't embarrassed by nude photo leak

Leslie Jones source Bang

'If you wanna see Leslie Jones naked, just ask,' she said

Dad's Army comic genius Jim Perry dies

Jimmy Perry, the creator of Dad's Army.

Dad's Army series captured all that British people savour

Check out some fashions from the Coast festival

FASHION: Ocean Zen range.

Images from the Sunshine Coast Fashion Festival show what's hot

Australian Survivor's magician Matt out of tricks

Australian Survivor contestant Matt Tarrant.

SHOW'S power couple looks unstoppable in race to the finish.

Top floor teams take out The Block's terrace week

Kim and Chris pictured on their winning outdoor terrace in a scene from The Block.

RIVALS Kim and Chris and Julia and Sasha tie in final week of work.

Hinterland horse stud passed in for $8.25 million

UNREAL: This Maleny estate is incredible.

12-bedroom hinterland horse stud still available

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?

Kiwi siblings snap up Dotcom mansion for $32.5m

The new toy company owners of the Coatesville mansion want replace any controversy with positivity and fun. Photo / Barfoot and Thompson

The trio paid $32.5 million for the property in June

New $200 million development will create 580 jobs

Cassie And Josh with baby Alfie and daughter Andee. They have bought at new Lennox Head development Epiq.

Majority of new positions will be given to Northern Rivers locals

Cherrabah's mega resort plans axed

PLANS for a massive development at Cherrabah have been scrapped.

Dusit Thani finance crisis 'just a small hiccup'

ON TRACK: Springfield Land Chairman, Maha Sinnathamby, Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale, Developer Richard Turner and Springfield Land Deputy Chairman, Bob Sharpless, at the recent resort sod turning ceremony.

Property developer says project remains firmly on track