Westgate Collapse Remembered

MORE than 200 people gathered under the West Gate to remember the 35 workers who died in Victoria’s worst industrial accident when in the bridge collapsed, 39 years ago.

Friends, families, former colleagues and union representatives paid tribute to those who were killed when on October 15, 1970, at 11.50am, span 10-11 of the bridge collapsed while the bridge was being built.

About 2000 tonnes of steel and concrete crashed down into the muddy banks of the Yarra below, taking workers with it.

During this year’s commemoration, a minute’s silence was observed, wreaths were laid and old friends swapped stories.

Ivan Ljubicic of Werribee was among them.

He was carrying unpublished photos of the collapsed bridge.

“I saw the bridge collapse,” Mr Ljubicic said. He was working as a tradesman’s assistant on the bridge at the time.

“I was across the water; I was in shock,” he said.

“I remember we came here and we looked for dead bodies, digging trenches.”

Guest speakers included Dick Gray from the Australian Workers Union. He was a first-year apprentice working on a switchboard when he heard of the accident.

Mr Gray said the annual memorial served was a reminder of the importance of workplace safety.

“These were workers, they weren’t soldiers,’ Mr Gray said.

“They weren’t going out to fight a war. They were like countless workers this morning who left their home to go to work and expected to come home that night.

“Some of them kissed their wives goodbye, their girlfriends, some of them walked out in a huff because they were fighting with their wives the night before. Some of them never returned home and that should never, never ever happen.”