Heartbreak Week: the Bus Crash Inquest & the Inevitable Break-Up (14-20 September)

Before launching into this week’s entries, I thought I’d include a copy of a letter that our principal sent out to us in the previous week. It didn’t really apply to me because I was summonsed to appear – I had to go – but outside of that commitment, I think I managed to witness most of the proceedings. My mum had no problem with me attending either, because she spent as much time there as she could outside of her work commitments as well.

A Life in Words

I have also included, where possible, scans of news clippings related to the inquest that I’ve attempted (with my meagre means) to make as legible as possible in case you were interested in reading them. I apologise in advance if the quality is too poor.

Monday 14/9/87

At Steve S’s [my solicitor] at about 7:45, we started on my statement. I told him things (answ. his Q’s) & he spoke into a tape. Downstairs, around 8:30 I waited with Trina while Becca was up there. I hated my statement [the perfectionist in me: but I knew this was an extremely important document so had to relate my experience accurately] so, while Becca & Trina & Steve went to the Courthouse, I rewrote my statement & a lady typed it etc & drove me down. It was 11:00 & everyone was coming out – cameras everywhere ..Mr & Mrs Perrem, Strooper & Fisher [parents of the deceased] all trying to avoid them. Court had adjourned until Guy (the driver) could arrive (they’d waited all morning for him- wrong date issued on his summons) so, killed an hour with Trina & Edith. So, actually started again at 12:00 – stopped at 1:00 for lunch (so boring waiting- the detective on for that hour) Mum dropped me at school- got things from Ms. Forbes. Sat Yr 12 area. Mark went to drive in Fri. night & Tamara’s party saturday “Forgot” to ring me. That hurts. And all he could do is laugh. Mum picked me up at end of lunch hour – I bought lunch, then waited outside again (Glyn, Steven, Trina, Edith, Brian etc..) Finally, around 3:00, Yru first one in. In for 20 mins (shitting ourselves) Recess then Steven L, Sean D & me .. not really scary – I felt like laughing- [laughter is my default stress response…] wanted to be asked more Q’s ..got $31 for it! & photo for Courier Mail! News coverage wasn’t “hot” ..Steven, Glyn were in background!!!!!!!

Tuesday 15/9/87

A Life in Words
Part of Tuesday’s article on the inquest in the Cairns Post. Note Detective Brooks’ opinion (second paragraph)

Today, everything ran according to schedule. We sat in the hearing until about 11:00; the machinery inspector (an engineer) (inspector of bus remains) was in for all that time & basically what came out of it was that there was no handbrake at all, the rear brakes were not operational (the adjustment was very ‘out of place’ incorrect) [To clarify: the bus had, prior to its fateful journey, received a service by Northland’s mechanics specifically on the brakes only a week before, after the driver Guy had complained about them failing at an intersection in the CBD. The service (the ‘adjustment’) was improper; the mechanics were negligent] & the whole frame of the bus was rust infested (hence the roof slicing off) […and this was the fault of the previous owner of the bus (who appears on the stand later on). See the news clipping below Wednesday’s entry…] Did my biol. test .. it was rather easy for the little amount of study I did (some things I’d neglected to look at stuck me, tho I know I’ll pass at least). Didn’t talk to Mark at all at school .. went to Home Ec room with Justine & Fi & had some cake. Fi was really interested in what was going on. She wants a copy of the records, too (a manuscript) [I still have the a copy of the findings in my possession to this day…] I missed out on the guy who saw the bus go over the edge [there was only one witness to the accident, who wasn’t actually involved in it, that is…] & quite a few student testimonies, but after lunch another inspector (a mechanic) took up nearly all afternoon, just re-iterating what the guy this morning had said. Made news again tonight. I wasn’t in the Courier Mail today, maybe tomorrow. [Ah, the Ego!] Rang Mark this arvy . . talked long about (well jokes about) me being evil & horrid & satantistic & him being good & innocent (Bullshit!) Getting warmer (courthouse is airconditioned) [← believe it or not, airconditioning wasn’t standard in all buildings in FNQ back in the 80’s, unlike today. We definitely felt summer in our classrooms at school!] Got my shorts from Kaffa but they’re too short – take em back, but you can’t [I think I meant, I wanted to return them, but couldn’t for ? reason…?]

A Life in WordsWednesday 16/9/87

Well, Mark was the first up today; there were quite a few students today -Cameron, Brent, mima, Fiona, jason, bella, jaque & Mark to name a few. The courthouse was packed in the morning (Mark stayed for it) but spare seats in the afternoon – boring mechanic (brake specialist) testimony -went on for ages (he was being rather “evasive” – Mr McKenzie said when we talked to him at lunch & were filmed – yeah! I was on T.V.! (NQ10) Lunch went quickly. Still haven’t started my english assignment. SHIT. Due Friday. I rang Mark this arvy, cos’ Fi told me she heard Tricia talking about the Drive-In (I got worried) but he was at Terry’s. He rang back around 7:30 and it was probably one of the best talks we’ve had for ages . . I mean he was being really nice and he said “I love you” again, which made me feel even better. He said he wants to spend time just me & him together on the holidays.. which I also enjoyed hearing from him. Forgot to  take back the shorts from Kaffa today. Must do it tomorrow. […buuuut I thought you couldn’t?] Wore my white mini skirt in public today – actually felt more confident & care-free than I have ever!! [Perhaps because I was attending an ‘event’ that directly related to my scarring. If people saw it, they were more likely to “put two and two together”…and be compassionate. Not that anyone has ever been unsympathetic (or nasty) to me about my scar anyway…] WOW!! SO BORING IN COURTROOM – MAKES YOU SLEEPY!A Life in WordsThe tone of this article (a recap of Tuesday’s evidence) indicates the bus company and the mechanics were at fault: both a government engineer & a transport inspector saying as much.

Thursday 17/9/87

A Life in Words
This is where the inquest seems to make a turn against the driver. Monique’s father questioned the ‘independant’ brake specialist and some of my testimony features in this article, although true to the media’s form, they spelled my name incorrectly…

A Life in WordsIt’s 11:00; I’ve just finished a few ‘choices’ for my english assignment (descriptive passages) Only 2 that I’m happy with, in fact. But it’ll have to do. Who cares? (Me, of course) Today, Glyn, Cameron, Mark came to see Chris (he wasn’t on til after lunch tho’.) (Cameron, Mark & some others were on T.V, too) Well the previous owner was on the stand today & the prick has pretty well laid the blame on Guy [the bus driver]. I heard Guy could get “manslaughter”. It’s not fair he doesn’t deserve it. [Obviously I personally laid NO blame at the feet of the driver …even prior to the inquiry. In fact, from the word go, I never felt an ounce of animosity toward him (and of all those I knew, neither did anyone else). Why? Well, it’s hard to fathom but I think it basically boils down to pure compassion. Knowing this man would live with the deaths of eight children hanging over him for the rest of his life… that burden would be insufferable alone. He didn’t deserve the added torture of others’ ill-will or negativity. I only ever viewed him as a victim, like us. It was the bus’s fault (and therefore the company’s) …not this man.] It’s because he was in too high a gear (3 hi, instead of 3 low) Big diff, huh? [Well, clearly enough of a difference to be used against the driver…] This shithead owner reckons he could’ve made the trip down safely. [Oh.. would that be the same owner whose incompetent maintenance in the rusted out chassis of the bus resulted in its roof shearing off? Not quite a respected person, in my books…] What a shithead. Poor Guy. [What I failed to mention here is that it only took ONE one hour lesson to get a bus license. This previous owner of the bus – who claims to have expertly traversed the Gillies in that very bus many times himself – also happened to have been Guy’s instructor. (See Friday’s clippings) What I really want to know – and it didn’t come up at least in my recollection – is whether any trainee driver would be instructed how to negotiate a mountain range in one one hour lesson? Somehow, I highly doubt it. Yes, clearly I am still biased towards Guy, all these years later.] Mark was being quite a sweetie today – smiling a lot, a little affection I changed those shorts (refund) & got an excellent pair for $36 at GOOD TIME, get this – with a free tan leather belt (after I forked out $12 for one – shit this free one’s even a closer colour to my shoes than the $12) Saw Vikki & Gemila in Big W this arvy ..they’re funny. Dropped ½ my lunch at the Esplanade today (made me angry) God I need sleep. Ate SNAKES in courtroom. Mark, Cam & Keith told to stop talking or they’d get thrown out.

Friday 18/9/87
[Articles from this morning’s Cairns Post, re-capping Thursday’s proceedings…and looking grim for the bus driver]

A Life in WordsA Life in WordsIt’s SHIT. Results of today were absolute SHIT. First, at inquest, we heard the addresses. It seemed certain Guy would get some charge- almost every barrister was against him. But his representative put up a good arguement. Then Mr McKenzie spoke, accentuating the company’s fault. [After all, had Guy not been made to take that company’s unroadworthy, malfunctioning vehicle up the Gillies Range to begin with, his driving skills would never have been questioned.] Mr Perrem & Mr Strooper also spoke (both nervous – Mr Perrem shaking terribly) After recess, the judge related his findings I cried at the mention of Monique’s form of death + earlier when  her death certificates were handed up as exhibits etc.) A Life in WordsThe stupid shithead found Guy to be driving recklessly, causing death [So the official charge against him was Dangerous Driving Causing Death] Cameras reporters outside. Mum was interviewed on FNQ10 News. [She expressed her dissatisfaction with the outcome.] NO ONE agreed with his decision: the mechanics got off SCOT-FREE IT’S UNBELIEVABLE. What sort of dick, prick, cunt, wanker is Trevor Pollock? [One whom I personally believe may have potentially been instructed by a higher power to find scapegoat. Yes, I have my own conspiracy theory, which I won’t disclose simply because it is – of course – conjecture.] Fi, Jo & I after dropping my eng. assign. at school, stayed in town all arvy.. I got some $15 jeans from KAFFA – need taking in at the waist, tho- but they’re great. Mum, Jules & I went late nite: I got a tape, too. See I rang Mark at home & he wasn’t in a good mood at all – last night [privacy omission] So apparently everyone’s shitty with Mark. not his fault. So I thought “great”, another boring night… depending on his mood tomorrow, we might do something sat. night SHIT

A Life in WordsSaturday 19/9/87

[I chose this particular news clipping from my collection because it was the most succinct article, but also exactly highlights the sentiments of the wider community about the inquest results: shock & disbelief that the mechanics & the bus company were liberated of any responsibility. Monique’s father poses the question that everyone wanted the answer to… see the third last paragraph of the article. (I’ve deliberately broken the  article up into segments (separate photos) so that the text can be more easily read.)A Life in Words

A Life in WordsA Life in Words

Today I did very little. . I re-arranged or, re-organized my drawers in my desk, then wrote the overdue birthday thank-you letters. [Yep, that’s VERY overdue: my birthday was in July.] I rang Mark around 3:00, he was feeling better today – [privacy omission] (Bad, huh?) He said he’d ring me back .. by 6:00 I thought I’d ring him, it was getting late. So we mucked around talking – he didn’t know what he was doing – I got upset -he said he’d ring back. I rang Fi & Jo & decided to go to Judd’s party with them. When Mark rang back he said they were going to Steve’s & then if they went out after, would I like to go? Well I said I’d be at Judd’s. Sure enough, they came & Mark was rather drunk. I kept my eye on him.. I noticed him kissing this girl at the bar & I got upset. He smoked a cigar & I was repulsed. To cut the story short; we argued & he broke us up. A Life in WordsI’ve never cried so much in my life. I begged, pleaded & threatened [crossed over to the next page…]

Sunday 20/9/87

him not to do it, but he .. oh shit, it hurts so much. There’s so many things. He kept saying he killed it: 9 months down the drain with [privacy omission] he doesn’t even know (well I know: Trisha F according to Deanne – St Monica’s slut. And I nearly hit her) […now that I can’t believe…] I tried my hardest to talk it out with Mark. [privacy omission] I had to walk home got to sleep 1:30, woke at 2:30, 3:30, 4 & got up at 6:00 – couldn’t sleep & had no appetite all day (did nothing ..some crash scrapbook) SO WORRIED. SO. DEPRESSED SO UPSET. I planned to go to his place to take his denim jacket back & talk. It was so hard .. he wasn’t going to change his mind. I couldn’t understand what he said. .he, I remember, “forget me, elissa. I’m no good for you. You’re making a mistake.” DON’T MARK. How can you say that? [Maybe because he was being honest?] Finally, I convinced him he said we’ll have a break, till he wants to get in touch again.. but I can’t handle even that. I need him. [Urgh. Those words most certainly do not exist in my vocabulary now.] I was looking forward to the holidays with him, so much. FUCK THAT PARTY. FUCK IT [Sorry honey, but that party – and everything that happened at it – was necessary…]

As an afterthought, I decided to include this article from Sunday’s paper, penned by the father of one of my Year 12 classmates (who obviously had a vested interest in covering the inquest) He highlights what is to me an exquisite and genuine human virtue: Selflessness Sun 20 Sep headline

A Life in Words

Thigh Numbness, Inquest Prep & A ‘Pissy’ Weekend (7-13 September)

Monday 7/9/87

I got out of doing my bio test tomorrow. I’ll have to do it Friday big lunch into 6th period, tute (CAD for me). But I’m not “off the hook”… my Maths will not be “good” . . I’ll stuff it, I’m sure. If I can learn the theory tonite & try to revise more prac. stuff (problems) tomorrow, maybe I’ll scrape through. Fi, & mima went home at little lunch- Joannah wasn’t even at school. Mark stayed.. I hung around him, Chris, Cameron, Steven at big lunch (laughed so much → my stomach muscles are so sore after the weekend) [!!!] Also, strangely (and fucking very annoyingly & disturbingly & upsettingly) my left knee, above it – inside thigh is numb. Been like that for the whole day (since last night) WHY? Hope its not permanent. [It wasn’t. But my concern was borne of the struggle to accept the permanence of the scar on my right leg. During a consult with a ‘revisive’ (plastic) surgeon only a few weeks earlier (see Saturday’s entry in this post) the penny dropped: it was affirmed, I realised and had to begin to accept, that my body could not ‘right’ (heal) this injury to the extent that it could render other superficial flesh wounds (virtually) invisible over time. The damage was too great, the result was permanent and I, as a teenaged girl obsessed (just like any other) with body image, had to come to terms with this. Any wonder I was nervous?] A Life in WordsActually started Fash. Des. work in art today . [Considering fashion design had been one of my strongest career dreams this would have been exciting for me.] Got separated for talking in english . [Ha! That’s a rare occurrence.] Handed in about 4 pracs in chem this morning. I’ll be so glad when this week’s over!! It’s 10:36 – hope I’m not too tired during the exam 2morrow

Tuesday 8/9/87

Ha, ha. Fail in maths, severely. left out 2Q’s (each worth 4 marks) to begin with (the last 2) & all the rest I practically am “hoping” they’re right. /40 I’ll probly get about 5 -no more than 15 for sure. Did chem HW tonite (nothing really substantial tho’.. must try 2morrow morning, then esp. at night: exam Thursday.) Found out during lunch & 6th on Friday – we’ll be at the courthouse, going thru’ proceedings with police (or whatever) [The bus crash inquiry (“death inquest”) was to begin next week. This was a big deal not just for me, but everyone involved in the crash …and pretty much the entire Cairns community…] Postpone biol. exam yet again! Chem. lecture tomorrow (I think) Wonder if it’s interschool? Hope so. [You wanna perve don’tcha, Liss?] Hot day → cloudy towards the end. I’m addicted to Kit Kats A Life in Words[and I’d say they’re probably still one of my top picks IF I were coaxed into buying a commercial chocolate…] (choc. in general) I must give it up- I’m getting fatter & my face is starting to break out again. Oh no! It’s 9:40 now. Earlier nite than previous 4 or 5 nights. Free dress day Friday, too. I want to party this weekend!! G’night!

Wednesday 9/9/87

Mark was away today. that’s the main thing. Aside from that, the chem lecture was (interschool – only some schools & not many people at all -held at Civic Centre) boring. [I was most likely comparing this event to last year’s, at which (unbeknownst to me, until a few days later) I was ‘noticed’ by an attractive guy from another school. (Check out Friday’s and Sunday’s entries in this post if you’d like the background) So perhaps I had my radar up, hoping for some kind of similar experience?] Cameron distracting. [Just as he was in every all of my chem classes!] Fiona’s going to Saint’s formal too, now. Not fair! Everyone is, it seems! Well I’ll just have to spend the whole weekend with Mark to make up for it. [Well, that’s interesting: it sounds very much like spending time with your boyfriend comes second to attending a social event (at which there’d potentially be many attractive guys) with your friends. Hmm… why are you in this relationship again?] We’ll probably end up going to the party afterwards, anyway. Cloudy day. * More junk today – I can’t help myself. A Life in WordsOn the scales this arvy (I expected them to break) I weighed only 61½kgs- I thought I’d be well over 64! Lucky! [Scales don’t mean anything. Really, how much of that weight is fat and how much lean tissue?] But I feel fat & my skins not too good. [That’s a better indicator of your health. What’s happening at the cellular level?] Wonder why on earth Mark was away? Julia said she saw them driving Sheridan Street just around 3:00 or something heading north cairns direction. Would like to have rung him- had they the phone on at David’s.. . he got 25 for maths exam! (I got 22 so surprised I passed!) Also gorgeous (& funny) photos I saw of Mark (& Steven) that are going in the Euroka [our school magazine/yearbook]. SO TIRED. WILL POSSIBLY FAIL CHEM TOO. Strangely, I don’t feel I will, though. Hopefully…

Thursday 10/9/87

Chemistry? What a frigging laugh! I know I have 3 marks, for sure. I’ll get more than 15 I think, but it’s /50 so that’s not good enough. Mark said he slept yesterday & watched videos & when julia saw them, was when they were going to the “wreckers” to get a something-or-other for the fuel tank (a lid?) So, art was boring cause people were in town doing the fence-painting.. Ms . Marsland interviewing CAD music kids at Trinity Bay. English bludge – Mr G. away: talked to Mr McKenzie. [our principle – he may have been caretaking our class? That didn’t happen often…] Lunchtime was fun : Yr 11 girls/Yr 12 guys feud ..makes me laugh!! So funny! Went late night with Fi tonite (had to do grocery shopping  for her mum – who’s sick) (!!!) Could not find anything I liked, to wear for tomorrow Not a single thing. Fi &I were so pissed off_ we actually had money to spend, but there was nothing we wanted to spend it on. A Life in WordsMark & Keith appeared (pinched my bum hard) disappeared, then reappeared before they left. Mark wanted me to buy him a shirt or something . too bad! Sweetie!!! (yukky word) Cutie! Yeah! [Oh mah Gawd] Well only biol. exam Tues. & english assign. for Friday. ∗ Gonna rage this weekend!!!! [Expectation …can lead to Disappointment…]

Friday 11/9/87

I’m tired – it’s 10:00 – I’m going to do something tomorrow night, no matter what. Pissed off, I am pissed off. I know I shouldn’t be, and I don’t want to be, but deep down I am. I went late nite shopping (with Julia) with Cameron (and as it turned out, Glyn, Deanne & Her sister) and it was so boring. Again, I saw some stuff, but nothing I thought was actually worth buying. I thought it’d be good & get my mind off Mark going to the [House on the] Hill [nightclub] tonight (Glyn was too, I think) Cameron didn’t want to & I don’t know about Steven Anyway, he was quite affectionate (well, his responses to me were very good) after school (when, incidentally, he said he wouldn’t go late night shopping with me, but denied he was going to the Hill. “Ring you tomorrow” he said) Got 24¼/50 for chem. Much better than I thought (almost passed!) [My how attitudes change! In primary school and at my previous high school (Smithfield High) this would literally have been the End of the World. Anything less than a High Achievement ‘killed’ me. I guess it’s a positive that I learnt (by default: losing interest in schoolwork due to my burgeoning social & love lives since the switch to Cairns High) to accept failure/disappointment with less Stress?] Busy day really : appointment with Ms Forbes took a while (I wore all black today) Mark wore his green shirt. I love it – so spunky! Trip to Courthouse was short really.. Trina, Becca G & I will have to be crossexamined cause we didn’t write statements .. will have to tell our story & will then be questioned. SHIT!

A Life in Words
I received my summons to appear in court for the bus crash inquest on 24 July.

Saturday 12/9/87

After a pissy night last night, I wanted a great night tonight –  seems everybody, everything is against me. […here we go…] I went to town this morning with Julia & mum & finally bought some tan shoes from Sportsgirl (you guessed it – to wear tonight) (After last nite – I slept badly waking lots – hoping Mark’d  come to my window, like I am now) So I waited all arvy. Around 3:30-4:00, I got a little tense; still no call, let alone visit. [….and I couldn’t contact him because he was staying at a place where there was no phone…] (I’d seen him (& he saw us) in his car around 12:00, when we  were on our way home & he waved) I’m SO hurt. I couldn’t stop tears now & then. He said he’d ring me & he didn’t. He must’ve forgotten (& that really hurts – to think he could forget me) After being out last night, without me, doesn’t he want to see me tonight? I am so hurt. So, of course, I stayed home even after making a skirt to wear as well. I want to get angry with him but I know I won’t. [Just as well… it wouldn’t do any good. But you have other options…] GOD IT HURTS. How could he “forget” me & if he didn’t , why didn’t he call? There’s no excuse. What’s he doing now? Who’s he with[For all your claims about trusting him…] God, I worry too much. NO! I’VE GOT THE  RIGHT to be worried & HURTA Life in Words

Sunday 13/9/87

I was still pissed-off (hurt) today, but it was wearing thin(-ner). I rang Fi around 11:00 – she said Jay’s BBQ wasn’t very good because Chris H rolled his car (8 or so people in it) at the bottom of Petersen St. Made Fi feel sick after that. [I can imagine: rolling bus, rolling car… too similar a feeling. I still react to excessive speed on right-hand curves to this day. A fast veer left doesn’t ignite a vague, deep-seated panic in me like the righthand turn.] I did nothing, really, all day (should’ve studied biology or done English assignment) Half-hoping Mark’d call or visit. But, alas (??), no. I thought how I’d be angry with him. So we got ready to go to the LeBerhz’s around 4:00 – leaving just after 5:00. Watched TV & video there – also talked alot about the crash, inquiry & showed my photos. Was quite good. At home, 9:30 I knew it – message for me to ring Mark (where?) […was he back at his parents’ house where there was a phone, now?] but mum said it was too late. [Our general rule was no phone calls after 7:30-8pm. It’s one I still follow today and, to be honest, I usually won’t answer my phone if someone calls after those times too. Night time is quiet time for me. (But I’m also not one for talking on the phone much anyway…)] So now I’m ready for bed: not yet too nervous about tomorrow. When will I call Mark? Where do I call him? I’ll see him tomorrow lunchtime : I will be nonchalant to him – but get angry if I need to (ha, ha as if I could.) Well I’ll try. [Entertaining Mind conversations…]