Australia — A TRUCK driver who survived WA’s Boorabbin bushfire tragedy will finally be compensated, three years after the blaze killed three others as a result of Environment Department bungling.
John Goudy, 62, who said he had twice attempted to take his life since the blaze because of the trauma he suffered, has been offered about $155,000 compensation by the WA Government and about $28,000 for medical and legal expenses.
Mr Goudy, who heard his friends’ death screams over his two-way-radio after he turned his truck around and escaped the flames, said this week he was glad his compensation struggle was over. But the payout would change little for the truckie who said his “life has been ruined”.
The State Coroner found in 2009 that a Department of Environment and Conservation incident controller opened a roadblock in Coolgardie during the December 30, 2007 wildfire and let a convoy of trucks through, resulting in the deaths of all three drivers. This was despite warnings of a wind change that fanned the fire in their direction on Great Eastern Highway.
Mr Goudy said that after the fire and until The Sunday Times revealed his situation in December 2009, the DEC did not notify him of the State Coroner’s findings, nor offer counselling for the trauma he suffered.
“I spoke to those drivers while I was driving my truck back after I’d done my U-turn,” he said.
“I saw them face-to-face when I was going back to block the road and I told them on the two-way radio to turn back, but there was nothing they could do.
“I was in a smaller truck and I could turn around, but they were in big trucks, they had no room to turn around. As soon as they went off the bitumen and went into the sand they would get bogged.
“Blokes were screaming over the two-way radio, but I couldn’t do anything for them.
“It will be with me for the rest of my life, I dream about it regularly. I’ve tried to kill myself twice since the fire.”
In late 2009, The Sunday Times revealed that Estelle Zada, the daughter of dead driver Lewis Bedford, and James Taylor, the father of victim Robert Taylor, in 2008 were secretly paid $35,000 and $34,000 compensation respectively for the deaths of their loved ones.
The agreements had clauses stopping them suing the Government or revealing details of the deals. But after the stories, the Government released Mrs Zada and others from the terms of their agreements, allowing them to take further action.
Mrs Zada has accepted $115,000 offered by the Government. The Sunday Times understands other claimants are still negotiating compensation.