World News – UA – ‘The ground shook’: ABC listeners remember the day West Gate Bridge fell


It was supposed to link east and west Melbourne, but on October 15, 1970, the West Gate Bridge united the Victorians in mourning

The sound of 2,000 tons of steel and concrete crashing to the ground, claiming the lives of 35 men, could be heard all over town

To mark the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, ABC Radio Melbourne asked listeners and Facebook users to share their memories of an unforgettable day in the city’s history

Many were children in nearby schools or were in the area when the partially constructed bridge fell just before noon

« I was going home when I was 15 on the train We just heard a huge bang, we looked out the doors and saw a huge cloud of dust rise » – Jill, Torquay

« We were on a school trip He fell down while we were watching him It’s always on my mind when I watch him » – Kate, Glen Iris

« I grew up in Hyde St [Footscray] and watched the bridge being built I remember the day it fell The ground shook I’ll never forget it I was 15 » – John, Bacchus Marsh

« I was in charge of the cardiothoracic service at Royal Melbourne We had to eliminate as many patients as possible to make room for the injured It was horrible They were covered in oil, blood I dreamed about it for days » – Sandra, Mentone

« Seeing a tragedy and its aftermath is just unforgettable. I remember going down to Williamstown shortly after and being in silence looking at the site It was pretty sad » – Frances, by text

« I looked out the window lazily and saw the bridge fall It was just a pandemonium » – Louise, Miners Rest

« At that time I was holding the telephone jack and switchboard at Salvation Army Headquarters and the 11 outside lines lit up in sequence. I knew something was going on » – Elizabeth, Facebook

« I was working at Bank St, South Melbourne The noise was deafening I learned later that we had lost a dear friend who worked on the bridge » – Val, Facebook

« My father was chaplain at the Mission to Seamen in Flinders Street When the bridge collapsed, he went to the site to support the survivors and administer the final rites to those [who died] » – Bryden, Facebook

Tommy Watson, a construction worker who witnessed the collapse from below, recalled how everyone was preparing for their lunch break when tragedy struck

« We heard an almighty crackle It was the steel splitting apart The concrete next to me started to crumble, » he told ABC Radio Melbourne

The West Gate Bridge collapse was a perfect storm of technical failures, safety neglect and bad luck

M Watson said he rushed to the bridge after seeing his colleagues fall to their deaths

The 23-year-old became president of CFMEU and said the incident had prompted him to fight for workers’ safety

« I want people to know what happened 50 years ago so that today’s workers are not treated the same as we are, « said M Watson

M Watson still lives in the western suburbs of Melbourne and said memories of his deceased companions still haunt him as he walks through the collapsed section of the bridge

This service may include material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and BBC World Service which is copyrighted and may not be reproduced

AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time, which is 10 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)

West Gate Bridge Collapse

World News – UA – « The Ground Shake »: ABC listeners remember the day the West Gate Bridge fell


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