DARWIN ‘FIRE BOMBING’

February 6, 2010

Link to a ‘Live Cross’ with Sky News Australia – while covering the ‘Fire Bombing’ of a Territory Insurance Office in Darwin NT, Australia.

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'Firemen'

'Mopping Up After The Blast'

The first emergency workers to arrive were confronted with a horrible scene.  A dozen badly burnt victims .. clearly in a lot of pain.

(A woman screams) Ahhhh…. it’s hurting even more…

The concrete pavement became a make-shift medical clinic.

(Another woman with burnt arms screams) ‘…. I want to kill him .. ‘

 “I want to kill him” – yelled this woman .. as bystanders tried to comfort her .. frozen peas on her shoulders, trying to cool her down.

 (A Police Officer orders people back) ‘.. Behind over there behind the shelter ..’

 Around 11 o’clock .. witnesses say the fire and explosion occurred – when a man pushed a shopping trolley loaded with three ‘jerry cans’ full of petrol and fireworks through the front door of the TIO Office.

(Water is pouring out of the Territory Insurance Office sprinklers) ‘ .. Shhhhhhhhhh … ‘

The man .. lit the firecrackers and then ran.

(Tim Ryan – Witness) “It was like a number of fireworks going off, maybe like ten twenty like – bang bang bang.”

Six TIO staff and several customers were inside when the home made bomb went off.

Near-by Woolworths employees and shoppers raced to rescue those trapped.

(Steve Cordona – Witness) “.. hectic, hectic, people didn’t know what was going on just waiting for people to walk out the door ..”

Fire fighter’s using breathing apparatus searched the burning office – after reports, someone was still inside.

(Bradley Fong – NT Fire Service) “The jerry cans were still burning as we were entering the building.”

The Crime Scene

'The Crime Scene'

(Phil Rout – NT Fire Service) “Very limited visibility .. um probably only a foot in front of your face.”

St John Ambulance Officers transported 14 people to Royal Darwin Hospital.

Most suffering burns and severe injures to their lungs from inhaling the toxic smoke.

(Dr Len Notaras – Royal Darwin Hospital) “We have 4 people in the high dependency ward suffering burns, the worst to 15% of her body – another half dozen are being treated for smoke inhalation.”

As a precaution ..

(Sound of bomb detection robot driving along) ‘Vhhhhhh…..”

.. the Territory’s Response Section bomb detection unit inspected the area – and gave the all clear.

(Justin O’Brien – piece to camera) “Immediately after the explosion – a local man turned himself into Police at the near-by Darwin Station. He was uninjured – Investigator’s describe him as a disgruntled customer.”

(Commander Colleen Gwynne – NT Police) “This is not a terrorist incident – it was definitely a dissatisfied claimant. We have that person in custody at the moment.”

The Territory Insurance Office is reviewing it’s security procedures .. at the three other Darwin Offices.

(Richard Harding – CEO, Territory Insurance Office) “The key message I want to leave with people is this appears to be an isolated incident. It doesn’t appear to be any ongoing threat as the suspect is in custody.”

Late this afternoon .. forensic investigators removed the shopping trolleys used in the fire bombing.

Police are yet to question a 45 year old man in relation to the fire bombing.

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‘MEMORIAL DAY’

May 24, 2009

(VIDEO STORY ABOUT MEMORIAL DAY AT THE LOS ANGELES NATIONAL CEMETERY)

The best way to describe Memorial Day to an Australian – is to say it’s the American version of ANZAC Day without the pub crawl! A time to remember those who have fallen in battle, survived to come home and anyone who has served.

An American Flag

An American Flag

An American tradition on Memorial Day, is to place an American flag at the grave site of past soldiers, sailors and airmen. No small task considering the numbers. At the Military cemetery in Los Angeles an army of volunteers is enlisted to answer the call – usually Scouts, Cubs and Girl Guides.  

From a foreigners point of view – it’s a very powerful and moving sight .. thousands of kids, American flags in hand – following tradition and struggling to push a 50 centimeter long flag into the soil. 

One of the 58 thousand flags placed around the LA National Cemetery

One of the 58 thousand flags placed around the LA National Cemetery

I asked a mother dressed as a Scout Leader why are American’s so patriotic? She replied .. ‘American’s come from everywhere, we believe in what this country stands for  – today is about respect, honor and freedom. Australian’s have fought for freedom .. you are just like us’. I agreed. Although, patriotism seems easier for American’s .. the colour combination of ‘red, white and blue’ lends itself to self promotion – unlike Australia’s ‘green and gold’ and that ‘Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi’ chant which makes me wish I was Canadian!

Back to Memorial Day .. the Mum summed the morning up best in five words that followed our conversation – (referring to her son, hand on his shoulder) ‘.. his father is in Iraq’. You may not agree with the decision .. but you support the troops. 

America is at War – Waring at a level not seen since Vietnam.

Walking around the LA Cemetery and looking at the headstones, one name soon blends into another. Many of the men buried there lived long lives – into their 70’s and 80’s .. they fought for their Country .. and they came home. But, what jumps out

21 years old

21 years old

is the unmistakable difference between a new headstone and an old one. The faded weathered lettering .. compared to the black stenciled look. 

Private First Class Jin Su Ong stood out. Ong an American, born in 1987 was just 21 when he died in Iraq this year. It made me think .. in 1987 I was in College living life and at 21, I was traveling the world. What would you have missed out on if your life had ended at 21? No disrespect to the other veterans .. but Ong lived in my time. 

For all the symbolism of today, most of the Scouts who playfully raced to plant the flags at each headstone are too young to understand the meaning of Memorial Day – that’s a good thing. PFC Jin Su Ong was forced to grow up too early.

(BELOW ARE ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN AT THE LOS ANGELES NATIONAL CEMETERY – JUSTIN O’BRIEN, 5/23/09)

 

'The Scouts'

'The Scouts'

 

'Flags On Guard'

'Flags On Guard'


‘TOO YOUNG’

March 19, 2009

 

When a person passes away aged in the 80’s – it’s often said they had a good innings. But when a child or teenager dies, death becomes about the cruel lost opportunity or the loss of hope for the future. 
I’ve recently covered the death of three kids whose innings was cut short. All the deaths were preventable accidents, each tragic in their own personal way. A teenage girl killed by a friend driving drunk, a teenage boy drowned in a flooded creek and the last – an 11 year old girl attacked by a three metre saltwater crocodile while swimming with friends.   

11 year old - Briony Goodsell

11 year old - Briony Goodsell

Looking at their photographs – they’re beautiful kids and just that ..kids! They made choices clear thinking adults wouldn’t think twice about. When told an 11 year old girl had been taken by a crocodile, listening to the six am radio news, I thought how could that occur? ‘Tragic Misadventure’.

BrionyGoodsell should never have been inside the Black Jungle Swamp nature reserve, swimming with her 7 year old sister, girlfriend 10 and a boy 12. But, kids will be kids. They were just having fun.

 

 

Anyone who has lived in the Northern Territory knows an encounter with a saltwater crocodile is likely 99% fatal. At every Top End boat ramp crocodile signswarn of the danger. Oozing mystery – up close crocodiles are fascinating creatures, able to hold their breath underwater for hours – the saltie, a pre-austric killing machine is an Abrams tank! Like the Abrams’ ability to run on a variety of fuels ..asaltie can live in fresh or salt water – that’s what makes it so dangerous. Briony Goodsell didn’t stand a chance.

When the search began to try and locate her – police called in the best of the best. Tommy Nichols. A Parks and Wildlife ranger and when it comes to crocs, he has first hand experience what a saltie can do – literally. Tommy’s left hand was mauled by a saltwater crocodile years ago, a thumb and index finger is all that’s left.

Six hours into the search – 450 meters down stream they found several pieces of Briony. Tommy told the Tactical Response officers, that’s it .. don’t expect to find anymore. Intuition and experience said the saltie had moved on. The reptile didn’t care Briony’s mother was in a near-by house waiting for news of a miracle.

“Kids are always crossing boundaries – it’s part of growing up, unfortunately this crossing the boundary is quite unforgiving” .. is how Crocodile expert Professor Graeme Webb described Briony’s death. Kids being kids.

Charlene O'Sullivan with her two girls

Charlene O'Sullivan with her two girls

Just as cruel as the loss of her child, Charlene O’Sullivan has to deal with the knowledge the crocodile responsible for her childs attack will never be found. Estimated to be three metres in length – it has slipped, swam and crawled its way down stream to the Adelaide River system, where 100’s of saltwater crocodiles call home.

And even with Tommy’s expertise – he admits “To be perfectly honest .. all three meter croc’s look the same .. I couldn’t guarantee that we’d get the correct crocodile”.

Nature being nature .. who knows what fate awaits the killer crocodile in the wild – just as fate chose it was time for Briony and the two other kids.

(Photographs courtesy Charlene O’Sullivan)

 

(Footage courtesy National Nine News, Darwin)