FLASHBACK: The day family was torn apart by tragedy

"I DESERVE a cry," he said.

Mr Ormesher, 49, wept in the Royal Brisbane Hospital as he told how six members of his family group were killed when a semi-trailer and bus collided in pre-dawn darkness.

"It is just not fair," he said as he lay only two rooms from his wife Angela, 46, who has brain injuries.

Mr Ormesher lost his daughter Janine, 17, his son Gavin, 19, Gavin's fiancee, Vicki-Lee McGrath, 19, his brother Les and sister-in-law Nadine and their son Martin, 15.

Mrs Angela Ormesher found out only yesterday that so many of her family had been killed.

Her husband broke the news.

"I think she's thinking they may still walk through the door," he said, surrounded by flowers and goodwill messages.

"She really doesn't understand what's going on."

Mr Ormesher, whose lung was punctured and ribs broken, described the night when the Sunliner Express bus and a semi-trailer collided on the Pacific Highway at Cowper in northern New South Wales, killing 20 people.

"I was wide awake," he said.

"I'm a very nervous sort of person.

"We were three seats from the front on the left. We had had a driver change in Kempsey and had just finished watching a movie."

This photo was taken six months before the accident. From left Angela Ormesher, Vicki-Lea McGrath and her fiancee Gavin Ormesher, both 19 and both killed in the bus crash, Colin Ormesher, Harry Taylor (Angela's father) with her newphew Julian Bradley on his knew, Angela's sister Eliane Bradley and her husband Malcolm and their daughter Olivier with Janine Ormesher at the back, 18, and also killed in the crash.
This photo was taken six months before the accident. From left Angela Ormesher, Vicki-Lea McGrath and her fiancee Gavin Ormesher, both 19 and both killed in the bus crash, Colin Ormesher, Harry Taylor (Angela's father) with her newphew Julian Bradley on his knew, Angela's sister Eliane Bradley and her husband Malcolm and their daughter Olivier with Janine Ormesher at the back, 18, and also killed in the crash. Contributed

Mr Ormesher said he had just swapped seats with his wife so he had the window seat. The family members were near them on both sides of the coach.

"I saw two trucks in the distance," he said.

"We passed the first one by the skin of our teeth. The second one came a minute later.

It was like a big Christmas tree hurtling at us.

"It ripped into the front of the coach and there was a horrendous noise. Everything went black and I was thrown everywhere.

"All sorts of things went through my head. I thought: 'Am I going to make it?' Then we came to a halt.

"I found myself in front of the coach on the ground. I yelled out for my wife, Angela, and for my son, Gavin, and daughter, Janine."

Staring at the blank hospital wall, Mr Ormesher paused to gather strength before describing how he found his family.

His wife was lying beside him.

"I could see she was breathing," he said.

Grafton Bus Crash.   Colin & Angela Ormesher with picture l-r Son Gavin Ormesher, daughter Janine Ormesher & Vicky Lea McGrath ( Gavin's Fiancee ) Picture taken 19/10/90 by Patrick Hamilton
Grafton Bus Crash. Colin & Angela Ormesher with picture l-r Son Gavin Ormesher, daughter Janine Ormesher & Vicky Lea McGrath ( Gavin's Fiancee ) Picture taken 19/10/90 by Patrick Hamilton Supplied

"I lifted her head and blood went everywhere. Then I called for my son again.

"There were lights everywhere but it seemed an eternity before help arrived."

A rescue squad arrived and started pulling bodies from the coach.

"I noticed Gavin right under the coach at the front," Mr Ormesher said.

"There were people everywhere and I shouted: 'Don't walk over him.' Someone said: 'I think he's been checked, mate. I think he's dead'."

Mr Ormesher said workers continued to pull out bodies.

"I saw them pull out my daughter," he said. "I could tell by the tights she had on.

"I think they were both fast asleep when the accident happened so God pray they didn't feel a thing."

He said he saw his brother's wife dragged out and then heard his wife crying out "Daddy, daddy, help me."

It was then that he realised he and his wife were alone in the world. The families had been on their way to a reunion holiday in the Whitsundays. Mr Ormesher, a newspaper advertising manager at Kincumber on the NSW central coast, migrated from England 20 years ago.

Colin & Angela Ormesher at the funeral service for family members who were killed in the Grafton Bus Crash Picture taken 30/10/1989
Colin & Angela Ormesher at the funeral service for family members who were killed in the Grafton Bus Crash Picture taken 30/10/1989 Supplied

"He'd brought the ring," Mr Ormesher said, wiping back the tears. "He had the ring on him. There was going to be a celebration on the island.'"

A funeral to be held on Monday at the Kincumber Holy Cross Orphanage will be attended by students from the Corpus Christi College, Tuggerah, where Janine was a student.

Mr Ormesher will fly to the funeral before returning to his wife's side.

His brother's family will be cremated in Sydney on Tuesday. Their remaining daughter,

Jillian, will fly from England to attend.

It could be weeks before Mrs Ormesher can leave hospital. The couple will then try to reform their shattered lives.

This story was originally published in the Courier Mail on October 27, 1989.

 

 

 

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