The front page of the Northern Star from 1989 shows just part of the carnage from the horrific Cowper bus accident.
The front page of the Northern Star from 1989 shows just part of the carnage from the horrific Cowper bus accident.

Not too late to thank SES people for Cowper bus crash work

THE SES volunteers called out to the Cowper bus crash almost 24 years ago are offended at any suggestion they are looking for recognition for what they did.

When they answered the call in the early hours of October 20 they went as representatives of their community determined to help people in need.

But after dealing with the carnage caused when semi-trailer rips apart a passenger bus, it is human nature to expect a gesture of thanks.

It is a gesture most volunteers feel they have not received and it is a gesture The Daily Examiner says must be made.

For the Member for Clarence, Chris Gulaptis, the gesture is long overdue.

"I think it's something the public should demand for their local heroes," he said.

Mr Gulaptis has put a proposal for recognition, to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mike Gallacher, and said he would make a private member's presentation to State Parliament on the matter if necessary.

He recalled a volunteer from the Maclean SES unit, Ian Durrington, who died in a work accident just over a year ago.

"It would be nice for Durro's family to get some recognition for their father and husband," Mr Gulaptis said.

The SES executive officer of Grafton City SES in 1989 was Bryan Robins and he was left to fight his own demons after the crash.

For more than a decade he battled what he later recognised as post-traumatic stress disorder before he was medically retired from the SES.

Last year he began his own campaign to gain recognition for SES volunteers of the both the Cowper bus crash, and the Kempsey bus crash two months later.

He wrote to SES Commissioner Murray Kear and received a positive reply indicating the commissioner favoured a 25th anniversary commemoration of the event.

But this turned sour when the commissioner later wrote it would not be appropriate for the NSW SES to make an award or certificate for these anniversaries.

Earlier this week, The Daily Examiner interviewed the Maclean SES controller at the time of the accident, Barry Essex.

Shortly after the crash Mr Essex made certificates recognising the individual efforts of each of his volunteers at the crash.

He said once the higher echelons of the SES heard about it, they demanded the certificates be recalled.

"I never found out what happened to them," he said.

In tomorrow's Daily Examiner, Mr Essex will talk about this issue and others confronting the volunteers after the crash.

And in the year leading up to the 25th anniversary of the crash, The Daily Examiner will continue to push for the recognition these men and women so richly deserve.


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