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

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