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Cowper bus crash survivors Angela Ormesher (left) who passed away in July 2016 and Glen Askew (far right). Image: Lynne Mowbray

Remembering Cowper 30 years on

Lynne Mowbray|

From someone who doesn’t wish to be named:
‘Each day I suffer in silence.
I wonder about a woman who I met only briefly on that day – a woman who had lost her child.
I remember her asking me if I’d seen her son. I looked around and when I returned she looked at me and said, ‘You found him’. I replied, ‘Yes, but he won’t be travelling with you and your daughter to the hospital.
Each day I wonder where she is and what happened to her in her life; only hoping that one day I could just find her and hold her hand.’

This Sunday (October 20), will mark the 30th anniversary of the Cowper bus tragedy which claimed 21 lives and injured 22, after a Sunliner Coach and a truck collided on the Pacific Highway.

While a roadside memorial on the Pacific Highway marks the site of the accident, a memorial garden is located about 400 metres west, on the old Pacific Highway.

A commemoration service will be held at 12 noon on Sunday at the Memorial Garden at Cowper, in respectful memory of those who lost their lives.

Clarence Valley Council mayor Jim Simmons has invited anyone who wishes to attend, to come along.

‘There are many people within our community who were impacted by the events of 20 October 1989,’ Mr Simmons said in a media release.

Only those who were present know the sheer scale of the nightmare that they walked into on that day – a nightmare that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

Cowper bus crash survivor Glen Askew was a concert pianist travelling from Sydney to Mission Beach in Queensland, for a performance.

Due to a pilots strike, the only way to get to his destination was by bus.

“The seat I’d booked was the second seat behind the bus driver,” Mr Askew said.

Just before the bus departed Sydney, a staff member from Sunliner Coaches approached him and asked him if he could move seats, as there was a family of 10 travelling together who were getting on the bus at the Central Coast.

He was moved to the back left hand corner of the bus; this move saved his life.

During a speech that he made at a memorial service in Cowper to mark the 25th anniversary of the tragedy, Mr Askew thanked the emergency service workers.

“I’m blessed to be here; because people like you turned up and helped people like us, in our time of need,” Mr Askew said.

“What you turned up to that day – you are heroes.

“I was sitting inside a place I pray that no one ever sits and someone walks beside you and grabs you and drags you out – that was hell.

“I’m sure it changed your lives forever (that day) as I know it changed mine; a concert pianist and 19 operations later.

“I hope that no one ever has to go through anything like that again.

“The sight I saw that day will live with me to my last breath.

“I was one of them and I am forever grateful,” he said.

A roadside memorial on the Pacific Highway marks the site of the Cowper bus crash. Image: Lynne Mowbray
A commemoration service will be held at 12 noon on Sunday at the Memorial Garden at Cowper, in respectful memory of those who lost their lives. Image: Lynne Mowbray
A commemoration service will be held at 12 noon on Sunday at the Memorial Garden at Cowper, in respectful memory of those who lost their lives. Image: Lynne Mowbray
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