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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



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