Mum is no closer to closure

COLLAPSED DAM: Water flows over the 10 metre section of inflatable dam at Bedford Weir which collapsed. Charges have been brought against SunWater and the makers of the inflatable section.
COLLAPSED DAM: Water flows over the 10 metre section of inflatable dam at Bedford Weir which collapsed. Charges have been brought against SunWater and the makers of the inflatable section. File

THE mother of Nelani Koefer, the Central Queensland tot who drowned at Bedford Weir, says she’s no nearer to closure after a four-hour hearing into the tragedy was held in Yeppoon yesterday.

For Amy Koefer the frustration of the slow-moving legal process is torture. She just wants to know why her beautiful little girl had to die.

Nelani was swept to her death when 6000 megalitres of water surged over Bedford Weir, Blackwater, on Sunday, November 23, 2008.

The four-year-old was skimming stones in the Mackenzie River when, without warning, she was engulfed in a terrifying wall of churning water which gathered up six others from the banks of the river.

Rescuers were able to locate and save the other six, but, despite a frantic search which involved scores of volunteers, a helicopter, light aircraft and people on horseback and motorbikes, Nelani’s body was not found until first light the following day.

She was discovered 800 metres downstream.

It was clear that a 10-metre section of inflatable dam had suddenly collapsed, causing the fatal surge, but it has yet to be explained what caused that to happen.

Workplace Health and Safety has charged SunWater, which owns Bedford Weir, and Trelleborg Engineered Systems, which made, installed and serviced the inflatable rubber extension which failed.

It alleges the organisations breached the Workplace Health and Safety Act by failing to meet their obligations.

The charges were brought after an investigation which took nearly a year.

The matter moved to Yeppoon Magistrates Court yesterday, but reporters were not allowed access.

Amy was present along with legal representatives from Workplace Health and Safety and the two organisations.

“I want this matter settled as quickly as possible, but there was no evidence presented, just a lot of legal argument,” she said.

“I think this was just the start of it, but I’ve been kept in the dark about how long it is expected to take before it’s over.”

Amy said she had no idea when an inquest into Nelani’s death could go ahead.

After yesterday’s unexpected turn of events, a spokesman for SunWater issued a short statement which confirmed an appearance in the Industrial Magistrates Court for a preliminary application in the Workplace, Health and Safety proceedings arising out of the unexpected deflation of an inflatable rubber dam at Bedford Weir in November 2008.

“As this matter is presently before the Court it is inappropriate for SunWater to make further comment,” the statement said.

There was no explanation why the matter had been moved to Yeppoon after it was initially listed for mention in Blackwater last December and adjourned.

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