Pasha Bulker ten years on: the heroes

Pasha Bulker ten years on: the heroes Westpac Rescue helicopter crewman Glen Ramplin down sick after rescuing crewmen from the Pasha Bulker. Picture: Darren Pateman
Nanjing Night Net

TEN YEARS ON: Glen Ramplin and his daughter Monique. Picture: Simone De Peak

RISING TIDE: Ben Donaldson stops his jet ski in suburban Merewether on June 8, 2007, to check on a motorist in floodwater. Picture: Simone De Peak

Ben Donaldson today. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

SAVIOUR: Ben Donaldson, Victor and Christina Wang, and their sons Ethan and Jeremiah in 2007. Picture: Dean Osland

RETURN TO SCENE: Naomi Roskell-West and her son Zac at the St James Road service station. Picture: Simone De Peak

Pasha Bulker off the Cowrie Hole. Picture: David Wicks

Picture: Stefan Moore

Picture: Stefan Moore

Picture: Darren Pateman

Picture: Stefan Moore

Picture: Stefan Moore

Picture: Stefan Moore

Picture: Darren Pateman.

Picture: Darren Pateman

Westpac Rescue helicopter crewman Glen Ramplin after rescuing crewmen from the Pasha Bulker. Picture: Darren Pateman

Picture: Simone De Peak

Picture: Simone De Peak

Picture: Simone De Peak

Picture: Darren Pateman

Picture: Brock Perks

Picture: Brock Perks

Picture: Dean Osland

Picture: David Wicks

Police take Pasha Bulker crew members away from the surf club on June 8, 2007. Picture: Darren Pateman

Picture: David Wicks

Picture: Stefan Moore

Picture: David Wicks

Picture: Darren Pateman

Picture: Darren Pateman

TweetFacebookOne by one, Mr Ramplin wrangled, harnessed and lifted the ship’s fuel-soaked crewmen into the chopper. Some cried, prayed, and hugged their rescuers. Few spoke much English, but one later quipped to reporters that the captain was “f—ed”.

Eighteen times the static jolts ran through the deck and through Mr Ramplin, most violently on his final rescue of the captain.

Subsequent findings about the ship’s grounding didn’t read well for the ship’s South Korean master, who was exhausted from a lack of sleep, hadn’t ensured enough ballast on his ship, and was found to have taken an ill-timed breakfast.

“I didn’t see the captain until he was the last one we got off. I guess you could tell what had unfolded was weighing heavily on him,” Mr Ramplin said.

“We didn’t exactly have a conversation about it. I just told him, ‘time to go’.”

After two-and-a-half hours, the last man airlifted to the makeshift emergency centre of the Nobbys surf club was the captain. Chief crewman Graham Nickisson – winchman throughout the rescue – said later he “really felt for him”.

“It was a pretty emotional business.”

Of all Glen Ramplin put himself through that day, his dry-retching in the Nobbys grass was private and brief. But it’s dry-retching he remembers.

“I get seasick real easy, and all the static shock had taken its toll on me.”

By June 8, 2007, Ben Donaldson was better-known as a gravel-voiced Merewether builder with a passing resemblance to Buzz Lightyear than as a Newcastle Knight who’d played nine games at dummy-half.

That morning Mr Donaldson, 28, was one of three jet ski operators who rode out with Newcastle’s head lifeguard Warren Smith asked to support the helicopter rescue mission on the Pasha Bulker.

The other two were Josh Ferris and Mr Smith’s son Rhys. They pushed their skis off from Carrington boat ramp and roared out through the billowing grey mouth of the harbour.

“My son said, ‘you’re not going out there alone, dad’, so he and a couple of his mates came out with me,” Warren Smith recalled later.

They were to assess the damage to the ship’s vast red hull – “a bit of cracking, but not too dramatic” – and retrieve anyone who fell from the chopper or the deck. Their only shield from the wind and the 18-metre white tongues of water, Mr Donaldson said, was the mass of the Pasha Bulker.

“The tugboats were just getting engulfed. Because the waves were rollers it was nonstop, and for a while going out there we couldn’t see the Pasha Bulker,” Mr Donaldson said.

“When a gust of wind came through, that chopper was blown 20 metres like a pendulum.”

All day the radar image of the storm glowered over the Hunter “like a purple scroll”.

Night fell and Mr Donaldson went home to Frederick Street, as his neighbours’ yards sloshed under 160mm of rain and their cars bobbed and scraped against the kerb.

His place seemed clear of the floodwaters, so he slipped on a wetsuit pushed out into the canal of Frederick Street on his “Mal” surfboard, just so he could say he’d paddled down his street.

“Then people were asking me to get them out of their houses,” Mr Donaldson said.

“I did six or eight people on me Mal. An elderly lady asked me to get her out with her cats.”

He paddled from house to house, ferrying the elderly, shivering occupants to the higher ground of Helen Street.

The water was rising and cold by now, about 10 degrees, and he swapped his Mal for his jet ski; it meant he could putt back through the streets and collect the lady’s wary cats in their cages.

There came a scream.

Christina and Victor Wang were doctors from Western Australia who’d moved to Merewether with their little boys Ethan and Jeremiah, who was seven months old.

Christina was at home with Jeremiah that night. There was a moment at her kitchen sink when the water wouldn’t recede down the plughole. Outside the window, water brimmed over the back fence.

Victor Wang was stuck at work at John Hunter Hospital and growing quietly desperate to get home.

He’d picked up Ethan from childcare, but couldn’t get through to his wife.

“Trees were down everywhere. The mobile network was down. I had to go back to the hospital just to ring her. I was new to Newcastle and I kept getting lost on the roads,” Dr Wang said.

“So I rang my friend who was a few streets away.”

The Wangs’ family friend Jim Lai arrived in his four-wheel-drive to collect Christina and Jeremiah but the car, as so many that night, drove into water that was deceptively deep. The engine died and they began to float. Water gushed in and pushed inwards on the doors.

“By the time we realised we could be flooded in it was already happening,” Christina said.

“The car started filling up and we had to get out; the water was up to our shoulders and we needed help fast because the baby was frozen and couldn’t handle much more.”

When Mr Donaldson found them and wrenched open the doors, Christina was shoulder-deep and holding Jeremiah above her head. The baby was purple. He didn’t cry until they splashed into Mr Donaldson’s indoor heated pool, and then they waited on his couch in footy tracksuits until Victor and Ethan arrived.

The family has since moved back to Perth, and Jeremiah is ten years old.

Before the storm, Mr Donaldson had had terse dealings with Newcastle City Council about the requirement to build his house to withstand a once-in-a-century flood.

“But in hindsight, you probably have to give them that one.”

On the day of the storm Naomi Roskell-West was 29 and increasingly aware of the rain that was blasting through Hamilton.

Her boss had left early to pick up her kids and Ms Roskell-West, of Valentine, decided to close up and collect her own three-year-old son, Zac, from his grandparents.

“I was a single mum. This was the Friday of my first week in a new job working in the office of a distribution company,” she said.

“I had to take a detour towards the stadium and I couldn’t believe how flooded it was. In the traffic near the service station on St James Road I thought, this is a bit scary. I decided I was going to pull up in front of a bowser and stay there listening to updates on ABC radio.”

Then she saw the cars being washed down the road and the quivering people between them.

It’s a struggle to explain, and Ms Roskell-West puts it down to being “analytical”, but she still feels anger towards some of them.

Ms Roskell-West, an office worker who’d “never been in the SES, Scouts, or anything like that”, climbed the bull bar of a four-wheel-drive to reach a man clinging to a car’s side mirror.

“I reached out to grab him before he could move away any further,” she said.

“I can’t imagine what this guy must’ve been thinking, with this chick coming up at him on the front of a four-wheel-drive.”

On higher ground, the service station attendant decided it was time to close – but a woman and three children were still huddled on the roof of a car.

“All I could see was this water pounding on the front of their car. I screamed bloody murder, told [the attendant] ‘you are going to get these people killed’.”

The servo doors slid open. Ms Roskell-West found a ball of fine rope on a shelf and tied a length around her waist. Shaky and numb, she told herself to tie a proper knot. She tied the other end to a light pole and fought the chest-deep surge.

Unseen objects brushed her legs. The only permissible thoughts were “keep going” and “don’t slip”. She hasn’t seen the woman or children since she held their hands in that cold water, but she’d like to.

Not, she adds, because of nostalgia.

“I don’t see it as a positive outcome. I mean, it is, because those people are OK, but I think it’s quite sad,” Ms Roskell-West said.

“It’s a massive reminder that Mother Nature holds all the cards.”

Instead, she says it’s complicated. The days after the storm were “very much a reality check”.

Ms Roskell-West and Zac were evacuated to a hall around the corner from their house in Valentine and given blankets and soup. She still wraps herself in one of those blankets.

Later that night the police were ferrying people to Wests. She called her whole family and told them she was OK.

In the weeks that followed, the Hunter gradually realised that a series of brave interventions had stopped the death toll from climbing into the dozens.

Cardiff was a microcosm of the heroics; as staff from the suburb’s vet surgery carried a German shepherd with a broken back through the storm, five locals put down their beers to help rescue 80-year-old Pauline Eichman from her flooded home.

The five mates tethered themselves to the Lemon Grove Hotel and helped paramedics Al Qvist and Scott Hardes carry their elderly patient to an ambulance.

“The bystanders made a huge difference,” Mr Hardes said, echoing a tale told across the Hunter.

Thursday’s 10th anniversary of the storm, for Glen Ramplin, will be overshadowed by the realisation his daughter is nearly a decade old. He doesn’t think about the Pasha Bulker much, but says helicopter crewmen think about things like the significance of a shift swap.

The June long weekend is saturated in history for Ben Donaldson, who celebrates his wedding anniversary and the birthday of daughter Saoirse.

For years, Naomi Roskell-West couldn’t drive past the BP on St James Road.

“At one point I was painfully affected by it all,” she said.

“Then one day, without even realising it, I’d done it. Now it’s just a heaviness in the pit of my stomach.”

And she still gets nervous about the forecast of an East Coast Low.

Continue Reading

Activist’s long walk for justice

Clinton Pryor arrives in Ballarat after walking from Perth Picture: Kate Healy. Anybody who decides to walk across the entire continent is likely to have plenty of time to see things and thinkthings through.
Nanjing Night Net

Clinton Pryor arrives in Ballarat after walking from Perth Picture: Kate Healy.

Which is one of the reasons Aboriginal rights activist, Clinton Pryor has walkedall the way from Perth to Ballarat on his Walk for Justice.

Mr Pryor, who arrived in Ballarat yesterday during Reconciliation Week, is on his way to Canberra and hopes to speak with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about issues concerning Indigenous people in Australia.

The 26-year-old said that he was inspired to raise awareness by the government’s announcement to close 150 Aboriginal communities in 2014.

“I was sitting there thinking about how do I keep voices up about forced closure of communities and the homeless,” he said. “I came up with an idea to do a big massive walk across Australia to find out the truth and to find out what’s going on.”

Mr Pryor is originally from Aboriginal community Mulan in East Kimberley, Western Australia. He set off on his walk in September 2016. Along the way, Mr Pryor has met with Indigenous elders and leaders to hear about the problems they are facingand what they feel might help.

“Fromwhat we have seen is there’s still a lot of work needs to be done,” he said.

RELATED CONTENT:Five days in Uluru: Australia’s first Indigenous constitutional conventionAll the questions you were too afraid to ask about Indigenous recognitionMr Pryor also gives talks at schools to warn children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

Elder of Wadawurrung, Bryon Powell said that Pryor is an inspiration to young Indigenous people.

“I hope young people around the younger generation see him as a bit of a role model. Because we need more people, young ones to stand up, be counted and stand up for their community.It’s great that you’ve got young people that are so motivated that they will take on board issues such as this and then run with it. Well, walk actually.”

The City of Ballarat supported Mr Pryor on his journey. Mayor, Samantha McIntosh, was at Victoria Park to welcome Mr Pryor.

“What an amazing trek,” she said. “For this particular week, it’s just a superb time to be welcoming Clinton here.

“It’s really important to raise awareness and for people to remember the challenges of the past and make sure they embrace every opportunity and really embrace everyone’s culture into the future.”

More information about Clinton’s Walk for Justice can be found on his website:clintonswalkforjustice.org or on his Twitter: @ClintonsWalk.

The Courier, Ballarat

Continue Reading

‘U-turn Queen’ Theresa May under fire for debate no-show

British prime minister Theresa May has been dubbed “not so much the Iron Lady as the U-turn queen”, in an election debate between her rivals that crowned another bad day for the Conservatives.
Nanjing Night Net

A new poll on Wednesday- for the first time – predicted a hung parliament could emerge in the UK from the June 8 election, after a campaign that began with Mrs May’s Tories looking at a landslide win.

Wednesday evening’s debate was anticipated as a low-wattage affair, with both Mrs May and her Labour rival Jeremy Corbyn booking proxies to quarrel with the country’s minor parties.

But Mr Corbyn decided at the last minute to capitalise on his surprising momentum in the campaign, and personally joined the debate.

May’s boycott then became the political story of the day, despite her desire to focus on Brexit-related issues.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said Mrs May had made it clear to the electorate that “you are not worth (her) time” – and “if she can’t be bothered, why should you?”

“How dare you call an election and then run away from the debate?” he said.

Greens co-leader Caroline Lucas said “the first rule of leadership is to show up – you don’t say it’s the most important election of our lifetime and not be bothered to show up”.

May was also heckled online by an American TV show: House of Cards, whose Twitter account commented “@Theresa_May They respect you more when you show strength. Or show up”.

Even The Sun, the Murdoch paper that has been fervently in Theresa May’s corner, did her no favours by pointing out that May’s proxy debater, home secretary Amber Rudd, had turned up despite the death of her father two days earlier.

Earlier in the day Mrs May defended her decision, saying she was taking questions from voters around the country instead of “squabbling” with rivals.

But the new distraction came on a day when a pollster, for the first time, predicted the Conservatives would do worse in this election than in 2015 – a result which would likely end May’s prime ministership even if her party retained government.

YouGov’s analysis of the latest polling data, applied to individual constituencies, came out with a prediction that Labour would gain almost 30 seats and the Conservatives lose 20.

This would result in a hung parliament.

The Conservatives would still be most likely to form a minority or coalition government that could gain the confidence of the Commons – but only just.

The prediction was hotly contested by other pollsters, most of whom are still predicting a dominant Tory majority of 100 or more seats, despite Labour’s consistently improving poll numbers during the campaign.

And both parties reacted with skepticism, with one Labour insider telling The Times that Mr Corbyn’s unpopularity would cause him to lose, not gain seats in the Midlands.

But YouGov stood by its modelling, which it said it had tested successfully in last year’s Brexit referendum.

Wednesday night’s TV debate had seven participants: Mr Corbyn and Ms Rudd plus the Liberal Democrat’s Tim Farron, SNP MP Angus Robertson and the leaders of UKIP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens.

Ms Rudd summed up her opponents as the “coalition of chaos in action”.

She scored a hit on Mr Corbyn when she pointed out that his parliamentary colleagues had passed a vote of no confidence in him, saying he had a weak team that could not be trusted to negotiate Brexit.

She also attacked Mr Corbyn’s opposition to anti-terror legislation and his economic credibility, saying “there is no tax you don’t want to rise??? we have to stop thinking, as you do, that there’s a magic money tree”.

But Mr Corbyn hit back with his strongest moment of the night, asking Mrs Rudd “have you been to a food bank? Have you seen people sleeping around our stations? Have you seen the levels of poverty that exist because of your government’s conscious decision on benefits?”

His outburst won applause and cheers in the Cambridge venue.

The BBC was forced to defend its selection of a studio audience which appeared raucously pro-Corbyn, saying it had asked a polling company to choose a representative cross-section of the country’s politics and demographics.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Continue Reading

Snow expected over Canberra next week as winter hits

Canberra Times winter photcomp (2016) -?? my three entries – all taken at Moruya Heads on June 6 this year as the South Coast Low stirred up the ocean and the run off turned the Moruya River to mud. I thought a black and white conversion might depict the drama betterCheersAlan Nicol#1 Wild Wave. The morning after a wild night – the wind was howling and the rain was driving, but it was worth it to watch Nature??????s might from the Headland at Moruya Heads.The first day of winter didn’t disappoint: Canberra dropped to minus 3.6 overnight, dipping lower just before sunrise on Thursday to minus 4.2.
Nanjing Night Net

Generally clear skies can be expected through the weekend as temperatures drop to about minus 3 at night, hovering at about 15 degrees during the day.

Weatherzone senior meteorologist Brett Dutschke said Canberra can expect snow next Tuesday night, with chances of snowfall remaining until Thursday.

“I doubt it’s going to settle for long on the ground, if it does its probably going to be quite windy [which helps melt the snow],” Mr Dutschke said.

Mr Dutschke said snow was expected as far north as the NSW central tablelands, but low elevations such as Canberra shouldn’t expect much.

“The start of winter looks a better chance of being average sort of rainfall or even above average rainfall,” Mr Dutschke said.

He said the further we headed into winter the drier it was expected to be.

Out east, Braidwood was slightly colder at minus 3.7.

This weekend it’s expected to receive marginally warmer nights than Canberra but colder days.

Temperatures down at the coast on Bateman’s Bay remained above freezing overnight, with a top of 18 expected.

Similar temperatures were expected through the weekend at the coast, with water temperatures to float around a relatively balmy 18 degrees but with three-metre swells.

“Probably feel pretty nice jumping in there in the mornings when it’s as cold as it is in the air,” Mr Dutschke said.

“Although there’s some fairly big waves, not as a big as further north. Pretty rough unless you’re an experienced swimmer.”

Overnight on Wednesday in the immediate Canberra region, temperatures dropped as low as minus 6.7 at the top of Thredbo or minus 6.5 in Goulburn.

Freezing conditions have allowed Perisher to open one week ahead of the snow season, with the resort expected to open this weekend.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Continue Reading

Bus passengers travel for free as drivers declare ‘fare-free day’

SMH News story by, Matt Wade. Story: Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance pictured at Leppington trainstation,announcing more train services for the area. Photo shows, Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance. Photo by, Peter Rae Monday 27 February, 2017.Bus passengers across large parts of Sydney are travelling for free after drivers and their union declared Thursday a “fare-free day”.
Nanjing Night Net

In the latest escalation of an industrial battle between the Rail, Tram & Bus Union and NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance, the drivers’ union initiated the fare-free day to draw attention to the impending “franchising” of buses in the inner west region.

The decision to allow passengers to travel for free is also affecting the provision of real-time transport information to bus passengers.

If drivers turn off Opal ticketing machines, transport information apps are denied the location and running times of bus services.

“Private operators will put profits before people,” the union’s bus division president David Woollams said.

“As a result, the community will get higher fares, fewer services and the removal of local bus stops.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Constance said: “It is disappointing that this action is occurring despite the ongoing conciliation process and direct orders from the Industrial Relations Commission last night that this action not take place.

“Once again the union bosses are showing absolute contempt for the law, customers and the people of NSW,” the spokeswoman said.

The union said the fare-free day would apply across the 12 Sydney depots currently managed by the government-owned State Transit.

Those areas are in the inner west, eastern suburbs, north-west suburbs to Epping, and across the lower north shore and to the northern beaches.

Bus drivers in the inner west last month conducted a 24-hour strike over Mr Constance’s decision to put services in that contract region out to tender to private operators.

Mr Constance has said the government will retain ownership and control of all buses, depots, timetables and fares. Bus services across much of western Sydney are already operated by private companies.

Mr Constance, who has argued that restrictive workplace practices have led to poor service quality in the inner west, said on Wednesday he would not rule out franchising further services.

“If cabinet resolves to make a decision … that’s what we will do,” he said. “I wouldn’t rule it out into the future in terms of franchising those other regions.”

Mr Woollams said the franchising of the inner west services was being rushed through without consultation or community support.

“It’s an absolutely disgraceful way to conduct yourself in public office,” Mr Woollams said.

“Trying to flog off the public assets before they get the chance to realise what you’re doing and oppose you.”

The RTBU said about 3500 drivers would take part in the fare-free day. Inner West Bus drivers fighting against privatisation of buses – offering free trips today <3 #sydneybusespic.twitter南京夜网/QpYWnIphOL??? Jumss (@Jumss) May 31, 2017This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Continue Reading