Bittersweet moment as new highway officially opened

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From The Daily Examiner is a six-part series that takes listeners on an emotional journey to reveal the full story behind the 1989 Cowper bus disaster near Grafton. Told through the eyes of those who witnessed the horror, some sharing their story for the first time, each episode explores a different aspect of the event to reveal a tangled web of trauma and negligence, and how Australia's worst road disaster at the time was the catalyst for the nation's largest road infrastructure project, the Pacific Highway Upgrade.


IT WAS a bittersweet moment for the Clarence Valley community when a special service of remembrance was held at the Cowper bus disaster memorial site on Thursday morning.

Prior to official celebrations for the completion of the new Pacific Highway later in the day, a variety of politicians, community members and emergency services personnel stopped in to the site to pay their respects and honour the memory of the 21 lives lost on October 20, 1989 when a semi-trailer collided with a bus on the Big River Way, at Cowper.

For former SES executive officer Bryan Robins, three decades may have passed, but the memories of that morning are still vivid.


Hear the full story of the Cowper Bus Disaster with a special 30th anniversary podcast. Listen below:


"It's always a very sombre occasion when I visit the memorial site at Cowper, and of course, all of the memories that come back, and all of the people, the suffering and trauma that occurred," he said.

"But I am happy to be here today because of the news that the highway is complete which will hopefully minimise any likelihood of these kinds of disasters happening again.

"It's taken a long time, but now it's finished and I'm grateful to the organisers for today in that they've taken the time to drop in to Cowper and pay their respects."


Delegates in attendance were multiple Nationals members currently on a tour of the new Pacific Highway, Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis, Clarence Valley councillors mayor Jim Simmons, Ashley Lindsay and Karen Toms.

Members of the Maclean Lions Club and emergency services personnel were also in attendance as well as former Grafton GP Dr Ray Jones who, since attending the crash that morning spent more than two decades fighting to have the Pacific Highway upgraded.

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