SURGE OF DECEPTION: Transcript of Serge Petrovich on Neil Mitchell show

From:
Simon.Troeth@opposition.vic.gov.au[SMTP:SIMON.TROETH@OPPOSITION.VIC.GOV.AU]

Sent: Tuesday, May 04, 2010 11:35:08 AM
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Subject: Transcript: 3AW Neil Mitchell Tuesday 4 May 2010 – interview with
Adrienne Rowell – Kerang rail disaster coronial inquest delay

3AW Neil Mitchell Tuesday 4 May 2010 – interview with Adrienne Rowell
Kerang rail disaster coronial inquest delay

NM: We’ve spoken off air to former Assistant Commissioner of Police
Noel Ashby who was really in charge on the day, on the spot for police, he
was there with the Premier at least. He wouldn’t speak on air for legal
reasons but he told us, one, the disaster response was very very badly
handled and reactionary. Now this is interesting because the disaster
response has really been criticised out of Black Saturday. He told us there
was a turf war going on – State Govt authorities told ambulance officers
and local police not to help. The State Government rejected help from the
Federal Government. Mr Ashby said he would be worried if there was another
similar disaster if we reacted the same way. Now all this will come out in
the Coroner’s Inquiry, but we haven’t had a Coroner’s Inquiry three years
on. And yesterday it was adjourned until after the election, it was
adjourned until January. That and a number of other level crossing
disasters. Now that clearly would upset people in the middle of it. On the
line is Adrienne Rowell who was one of the victims at Kerang. Hello
Adrienne.

AR Hello Neil.

NM Are you surprised by what Noel Ashby’s had to say?

AR I was surprised (inaudible) very happy, because I have tried for
three years to have this looked at, as have a number of other people, and
we’ve just been blocked.

NM What do you want looked at Adrienne?

AR The emergency responses to that day. We had ambulances up on the
fence (inaudible) where people had to go up and get (inaudible) and then
down to the train to put patients on. We had doctors that were ready for us
but we couldn’t have them. We had so many dead, so many dying, so many
injured, and there was only a handful of us. Surely a doctor should have
been allowed through to help us. We didn’t know which one to sit with, who
was dying, because we didn’t know which way to go.

NM What … where were you, what was your involvement in it?

AR I was a passenger on the train. It was only about six or seven of
us that were able to head into that carriage that was hit. We were in the
first carriage. And we just couldn’t get anything Neil, it was just
absolutely amazing. You know, it’s beyond belief how the Premier could fly
up and stand beside the train and cry, with Noel Ashby, and when that day
was finished, we tried to ask them why it happened, and nobody would say
anything, they just kept saying it was handled the way it should be. I know
that doctors in Kerang have made a complaint. I know they’ve written a
story in their AMA magazine. But please, we have to have somebody do
something before this happens again.

NM We have had suggestions before that there were some problems
there, but what you’re saying is taking it to another level, you’re saying
it was just a mess, the response to the disaster.

AR It was a disaster. It was a disaster and it was dreadful,
dreadful.

NM So you’re saying the response was a disaster?

AR The response – there were ambulances there, the first ambulance
arrived after about 20 minutes and went to the truck driver. When everybody
else arrived they all stood away from the train. Now I a food safety
auditor and I was on my way home from Swan Hill. When the accident happened
I rang Swan Hill Hospital. They were put on what was called brown alert, or
alert brown or something. When I went to Cohuna Hospital to do an audit
they asked me what had happened that day, because they were ready to come
to the accident, and the matron of the hospital said to me they were stood
down, they were told not to come. She said if I had have known what you
were going through I would have come. But nobody came Neil, nobody came
down to the train. Bless their hearts, some people that saw the accident
came to help, but we needed medical help. We needed someone to co-ordinate.
There was no co-ordination. If I’m allowed to say this, Black Saturday
brings it all out to me again. There’s just no-one there who can control it
and direct.

NM There’s nobody in charge.

AR We’re not blaming the ambulance people, we’re not blaming the
SES, what we’re asking is who made that call? Who made that decision not to
help us that day?

NM Do you think it cost lives Adrienne?

AR Personally Neil I think it cost two lives. Um, we had a nurse
working with us that day who lived on the farm on the corner of the railway
track. She was absolutely brilliant that woman, and it was her husband that
kept racing to the ambulances to get the spinal boards. It was him that
brought in a 4 wheel drive so we could put patients on, so we could get
them off of the carriage and not put them into the dirt.

NM What was your reaction yesterday when this case was adjourned
until January?

AR I stood up, the barrister that stood up and asked for it to be
adjourned left again shortly after, after he’d made that particular thing
and I was watching, and then he turned up and he whispered to the barrister
sitting next to him, and then that barrister stood up and tried to take the
argument further, and it just crossed my mind, he’s talking to somebody out
there, who is it? And then I stood up and I asked the Coroner could we
please … I was telling him I was a passenger that day, could we please have
the (case) brought forward? She could set it when she wanted it. She has
put (inaudible) away for September. These two barristers objected. Now I –
if I’m allowed to say this, I think it’s political. I don’t think they want
to hear it.

NM Because it could embarrass the government?

AR Oh it’s going to embarrass them. When this story comes out, I
mean, even what you’ve got from Noel Ashby, when this story comes out and
you talk to everybody Neil, it is going to blow sky-high.

NM What will you say to them when you give evidence? I mean the
Coroner obviously will make a decision on it. What will you say?

AR I will tell the truth. I mean she put the … she has put it off
til January. There were people in court yesterday who have lost people in
that accident, relatives and family, and they stood up and they said they
would like it in September as well. We have to move on Neil, we can’t move
on while this is going on.

NM Adrienne we’ll keep in touch with you. I appreciate your time.
Adrienne Rowell, a victim in the Kerang train crash. On the line is Serge
Petrovich, who is a barrister for some of the families and the local
doctor. Serge Petrovich good morning.

SP Good morning Neil.

NM Do you know why it’s been held over til January?

SP Yes, I think in fairness to the Coroner and to the court, this is
a complex sort of inquest that actually involves four separate inquests.
The first and the biggest of them will be the Kerang rail disaster, but
then there’s another country inquest into a rail disaster, or a rail
fatality at (inaudible), and then there are two suburban fatalities that
are being investigated as well. So, there are a lot of issues involving all
of those inquests and the time-tabling of it is certainly something that’s
tricky and difficult trying to accommodate all of the parties, and as you
can imagine, there are many interested parties, so …

NM Is it right that VicRoads barristers asked for the adjournment
until January?

SP Ah, yes, my recollection is that it was (inaudible) QC, who’s a
very well-known and well-respected barrister who appears as the senior for
VicRoads and his junior Rob Taylor that requested the adjournment, and I
assume that’s because September is a difficult period for them, or it may
well be that VicRoads have other concerns, I’m not really aware of why that
was. Yeah, they …(inaudible)

NM Well let’s not go to the motivation, the fact is it’s delayed
until after the state election. Do you believe, representing the families
and some of the local doctors, insofar as you’re able to talk about it, do
you believe it is potentially embarrassing to government, what’s going to
come out?

SP Ah look I …I think that the evidence that we hear at the inquest,
when we get to that aspect of it, is consistent with what those witnesses
have already said in their … you know, each of the have made statements, or
many of them have made statements, and corresponded with the Coroner in the
form of letters and what-not – if the evidence is consistent with what
they’ve said thus far, I think it’s going to be horrendously embarrassing.
I mean these people, what Adrienne was saying, these people, these
passengers and people that lived near the railway line were left to
administer first aid to dead and dying people, amputees, you know, other
injured passengers forced to help other injured passengers while ambulance
and medical staff were available and were restricted from entering the
scene. I don’t think Adrienne said this but in her statement she talks
about the ambulances being parked 50 metres from the train but not being
allowed into the train to actually administer first aid. So the lady she
was talking about, the nurse Lynne Peacock and her husband, and Adrienne,
were going up to the ambulances and taking out spinal boards, entering the
scene, putting patients on those spinal boards then using Lynne’s husband’s
4 wheel drive to evacuate them out of the scene up to where the ambulances
would treat them. I mean, you can imagine the scene, it was chaotic and
horrendous, so if that evidence is given consistent with what they’ve said
thus far, there’s going to be a lot of questions, I’ve no doubt about that.
And there will be some embarrassment.

NM Thank you very much for speaking to us. Serge Petrovich,
barrister for some of the families and local doctors, Adrienne Rowell
before that, a victim at Kerang.

My point is this. You don’t go to the motive of why it’s happened,
but we have a series of coronial inquiries here into level crossing
crashes, including Kerang, which – under which the government is being
criticised. Kerang, well you heard it could be on a level of criticism
similar to Black Saturday. The death toll is lower, but it seems the
efficiency of the way the operation was managed was not much better. That’s
going to be one of the allegations. This could be extremely embarrassing to
government. Yesterday it was all delayed until after the election.

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