TWO TRAILER TRUCK COLLIDED HEAD-ON in Western Victoria, Australia, late Wednesday night killing both drivers. A third truck immediately plowed into the wreck causing grievous injuries to that driver and starting a fire that would burn for six hours into Thursday morning.
Herald Sun / Clint Maca
That stretch of 2-lane highway is famous for being one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in the state. People who live nearby reported that the heat from the fire was so intense that you could not approach it within 70 meters.
Herald Sun / Edwards
The crash happened just before midnight Wednesday night and one neighbor said that aerosol cans (containing hair spray) filled one trailer and were exploding for 45 minutes. The bodies of the two victims were destroyed and are being examined by the state Disaster Victim Identification Team to determine their identities. The surviving truck driver is in grave condition with extensive burns.
The highway was expected to be reopened to traffic sometime on Friday.
TWO AUSTRALIAN FIREFIGHTERS have been reported to have perished while fiighting a bush fire in the northeast region of Victoria in Wednesday afternoon. Nine News television is reporting:
The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) firefighters were believed to have been killed near Harrietville, south of Bright, where a bushfire is currently burning out of control.
The Australian Workers Union Victorian branch has said two men died in the line of duty at a fire in the Ovens region today but authorities have not confirmed the information.
It is believed the men were on the western edge of the blaze at Pheasants Creek Track when a tree fell on their 4WD, Nine News reports.
Their identities have not yet been disclosed either.
Some of the CFA firefighters catch some Z's recently at the
bush fire that is expected to take several more weeks to extinguish.
(News Limited photo)
Since that early report, the government authorities have confirmed two fatalties, but are unable to identify them because the bodies are still behind the fire lines and have not yet been recovered. The AAP is reporting via SBS One:
Australian Workers Union Victorian secretary Cesar Melhem said two DSE firefighters had been killed.
"Our members have confirmed that two firefighters unfortunately lost their lives," Mr Melhem told AAP. Mr Melhem said the deaths were a shattering loss for the firefighters' families, their workmates, the union and all Victorians.
"These DSE firefighters work in the most horrific conditions imaginable, away from the big centres, out in the bush, and with very little recognition for their heroic contribution to this state," Mr Melhem said in a statement. "They have died heroes, which will be small comfort to those that grieve them."
The union said the identity of those who had died had not been confirmed.
"The priority at this stage will be to recover the bodies because they're still behind the fire lines and attend to the rest of the firefighters making sure all of the support has been provided to them," Mr Melhem said.
Update: The Herald Sun is now reporting that the fatalities have been identified, but not their names. Fifteen minutes ago they posted:
The Department of Sustainability and Environment officers were killed yesterday afternoon by a tree that fell on their vehicle. Authorities confirmed last night the victims were a man in his 30s from Corryong and a woman in her late teens from Tallandoon.
They were working around the remote Pheasant Creek Track at Selwyn, 170km north-east of Melbourne. Emergency services converged on the area last night, braving the fire, harsh terrain and the risk of of further falling trees.
The pair had been part of a major effort fighting the fire that has been burning in the Harrietville area for weeks, intermittently threatening communities.
The fire threat prevented emergency crews from getting to the pair. Officers did not get to the scene until 8.10pm. A coroner will head to the scene this morning.
They are the third and fourth Victorian firefighters to die this summer.
Firegeezer will update this story when warranted.
Nine News has the story and a video report HERE.
The SBS has the AAP story HERE. The Australian has more details HERE.
The Melbourne Herald Sun article is HERE.
THE VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA, AMBULANCE SERVICE has had to publicly apologize for failing to dispatch an ambulance promptly when the caller was told that he was in a non-existent location. The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting:
Peter Rennie was driving along the Daylesford-Ballarat Road at Dean, about 20 kilometres north-east of Ballarat, when he came across a car that had smashed into a tree on May 23. Another motorist stayed with the injured woman who was trapped inside the vehicle while Mr Rennie ran to the nearest corner – the intersection with Dean-Mollongghip Road – to call an ambulance.
He spelt out the road sign to the operator over his mobile phone, only to be told his location didn't exist.
"I didn't know how to pronounce it so I spelt it out right from the start," Mr Rennie told the Ballarat Courier. "When I spoke to an operator, I was told there was nowhere in Victoria called Dean.
"I couldn't believe it. I said the system had no idea, and then I was told to check my attitude. I said to them: 'What do we do? Do we leave this poor woman in the car to die?' "
Eventually the dispatcher "found" the location and sent the ambulance.
The Ambulance Victoria inquiry into a complaint filed about the call found out that the call-taker was "dismissive" of the caller and failed to follow the proper protocols. She has been given a stern order to undergo remedial training.
Read the full story in the Sydney Morning HeraldHERE.
Ambulance Victoria WEBSITE.
There is a primitive horror in watching the hand-held camera move in on flashing police lights in the night, then get right up to smashed cars, then fasten on shattered faces covered in glass and blood and bodies twisted in unnatural positions. Sometimes you can hear the real moans and shrieks of the injured and dying. Once the camera catches a man at the instant of death.
Whatever the filmmakers’ intentions, this was pornography then, and its liberal use in the documentary—which features stomach-turning shots of a dead baby under a car—makes it feel like pornography now. Hell’s Highway isn’t nearly as revelatory or as penetrating as it would need to be to overcome the exploitation factor.
NOW FOR SOMETHING DOWN UNDER
While I will tend to agree with Too Old To Work, the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) is a Victorian Government-owned organization set up in 1986 that has had a different experience with their safety videos.
TAC’s role is to pay for treatment and benefits for people injured in transport accidents. It is also involved in promoting road safety in Victoria and in improving Victoria’s trauma system.
This 5:22 minute video: TAC Campaign – 20 year Anniversary retrospective montage
12.1 million views.
from the video:
On December 10th 1989 the first TAC commercial went to air. In that year the road toll was 776; by last year 2008 it had fallen to 303. (287 deaths for 2010)
A five minute retrospective of the road safety campaigns produced by the TAC over the last 20 years has been compiled. The montage features iconic scenes and images from commercials that have helped change they way we drive, all edited to the moving song Everybody Hurts by REM.
IN THE AUSTRALIAN STATE OF VICTORIA, THE FIRE CHIEF of the Country Fire Authority (CFA), Russell Rees announced his resignation after just 6 months into his current 2-year contract.
Chief Russell Rees
Chief Rees was in charge of the CFA in February 2009 when the infamous brush fires roared through large swaths of the state killing 173 people and culminating with what is now called “Black Saturday.”
Rees has been under intense pressure to leave since an interim report for the commission charged with investigating the disaster was released late last year. The official report is due to be released in July. The interim report said, “At the IECC (Integrated Emergency Co-ordination Centre) Mr Rees did not appear to become actively involved in operational issues, even when the disastrous consequences of the fires began to emerge.” TV Channel 9 reports: Rees was in charge of the CFA on Black Saturday and revealed at the Royal Commission that people at the control centres were relying on inaccurate maps despite having access to detailed data showing the projected movement of the fires through Kinglake and surrounding communities. Rees admitted that as a result, ABC radio warnings proved more effective and up-to-date than those from the CFA.
There is a lot of strong opinion in Victoria on whether Rees was pushed out, or if he chose to leave voluntarily, as he insists. The Australian has a good summary on this controversy HERE.
Chief Rees has had the support of the United Firefighters Union, however. The Herald SunREPORTS:
Victoria’s firefighters’ union says the resignation is a chance to move forward and unify the state’s fire services. The United Firefighters Union UFU wants the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, CFA and the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s firefighters to be merged into one service.
UFU national secretary Peter Marshall said Mr Rees did not necessarily make bad errors on Black Saturday but was working with a chronically flawed system. “We’ve supported Mr Rees, in the context of that day, because there needs to be an analysis of the lead-up to that season,” Mr Marshall told AAP. “That includes what resources he had as opposed to what resources were delivered and you can only work with the tools you have got.
The union presented a submission earlier this month to the commission stating that the current system of separate fire services did not serve the “best interests” of Victorians.
The Age has more on this controversy plus a video of Chief Rees’ public announcement HERE.