Memories of Australia’s worst rail disaster came flooding back on Monday. But this year was the first time the state government didn’t have a representative at the Granville train disaster memorial, after the Transport Minister didn’t respond to calls by organisers.
It’s been 39 years since a packed commuter train from the Blue Mountains derailed and crashed into the supports of the Bold Street bridge at Granville which collapsed onto two carriages, killing 83 and injuring 213.
Victims’ families, survivors and rescuers relived the day through photos and television footage at a memorial at Granville Town Hall followed by a wreath laying service before going to the bridge to release 83 roses onto the tracks.
John Hennessey was at his Campbelltown home when the news broke about the tragedy.
The Granville Memorial Trust president helps organise the annual memorial.
‘‘We do it so it never happens again,’’ he told the Sun.
‘‘We keep the state rail on their toes like a beacon as the public are entitled to the best.’’
The service was almost overshadowed by controversy after transport minister Andrew Constance failed to show or send a representative on his behalf.
It was the first time a state government representative didn’t attend.
‘‘For reason unknown, the state government has boycotted this memorial as Mr Constance refused to take our calls,’’ Mr Hennessey told the service.
‘‘The state government don’t want to know about it and should hang their heads in shame. I’m sad and angry that Granville has been taken off the radar.’’
A spokesman for Mr Constance said he will attend next year’s 40th anniversary.
‘‘The minister was disappointed he couldn’t attend today’s service because he was travelling outside of Sydney,’’ he said.
‘‘The events of that day are a constant reminder of why we always make safety our number one priority and our thoughts are always with those who were lost on that day.’’
Ambulance officer Michael ‘‘Scotty’’ McInally arrived at the scene at 8.30am, 20 minutes after the tragedy.
‘‘It was a scene of devastation,’’ he recalled.
‘‘The carnage was unbelievable. It’s a day to respect those who didn’t make it and those who helped out.’’
Mr McInally was there for 17 hours and spent a lot of that time with trapped victim Bryan Gordon, one of the last out of the wreckage alive.
Mr Gordon died three days later, leaving behind a young wife and four-year-old daughter.
‘‘I haven’t been able to get on a train since,’’ Mr McInally said.
Granville widow Annette Hogan (formerly Gordon) attends the service every year.
‘‘It’s a day we remember all those who died,’’ she said.
‘‘Bryan was very brave that day. He was only 31. When we saw it on the news, I had no idea he was trapped. I thought he’d been killed instantly.’’
Blacktown deputy mayor Jacqueline Donaldson has vivid memories of the day.
‘‘I had three friends who usually got on that train at Glenbrook every day,’’ she said.
‘‘One slept in that day, another was running late while the other had a rostered day off.’’
There was a special mention for Police Rescue Squad member Dickie Lamb, one of the first rescuers at the scene, now gravely ill with just days to live.
Helen Darlymple was there on behalf of friend June Ollerenshaw, who lost daughters Cathy and Lyndy in the crash, aged 19 and 18.
‘‘Those girls were more than sisters, they were best friends,’’ she said.