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Memorial today for victims of Cave Creek disaster

Emily Murphy ,
Publish Date
Tue, 28 Apr 2015, 7:11am
A sign marking the disaster in the Paparoa National Park

Memorial today for victims of Cave Creek disaster

Emily Murphy ,
Publish Date
Tue, 28 Apr 2015, 7:11am

AUDIO: Senior Constable Al Hendrickson interviewed by Emily Murphy. Mr Hendrickson was second on the scene at the Cave Creek tragedy.

Virginia Pawsey says she still thinks about this day 20-years-ago, as the one that changed everything forever.

Her son, Kit Pawsey was one of 14 people who died when a poorly constructed Department of Conservation viewing platform gave way in the Paparoa National Park on the West Coast.

Since then, her family has been a catalyst for change, organising the fight for compensation from the Government and making sure what happened at 11:30am, April 28, 1995, never happens again.

Today, she says, will be a day to remember her son, and reflect on the passage of time.

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Friends talk about their children, about marriages, birthdays and things like that. Sometimes if I reflect I think we only have anniversaries...and it’s the anniversary of a death,” Ms Pawsey said.

“It’s times like this in the 20th year that it really hits home.”

Only four people survived the fall.

Sam Lucas was one of them, but he doesn’t recall any of the accident.

“Which means I’m not haunted as such by the event itself...and so it was sort of waking up and coming to terms with what had happened but having no recollection of it.”

Today, at his new home he shares with his partner and children in the UK, he’ll take a quiet moment to reflect.

“I’ll sit and find some space around the time of the accident and think about the people that were with me at that time, and the families that have been involved.”

The tragedy has also had a lasting impact on officials who attended the scene.

Senior Constable Al Hendrickson, who was the second officer to arrive, said the Cave Creek disaster was among the worst he’d seen in his 32 years on the force.

“It was like something you’d see out of a St John’s training exercise, in that there were people [seriously] injured but bodies as well.”

A memorial service will be held from 11:00am this morning, with family members of the victims, Department of Conservation officials, and representatives from Tai Poutini polytechnic among those expected to attend.

A song by Barbara Streisand called “the way we were” will play, and a wreath will be laid to pay tribute to the young lives that were lost.

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