Today we commemorate one of the worst industrial disasters in Australia’s history: the collapse of the West Gate Bridge in Melbourne, at 11.50am on 15 October 1970.
On that day, the bridge collapsed into the Yarra. The crash was so loud, it could be heard twenty kilometers away.
Thirty-five construction workers were killed. Eighteen were injured. Some of these workers were working on the bridge at the time. Others were on their lunch break. The small buildings that served as their lunch room were crushed as the bridge above collapsed on top of them.
The rescue that followed the was brutal for everyone involved. The rescuers were at constant risk themselves. An oil fire broke out. The rescue stretched deep into the night.
A subsequent Royal Commission found that there were major structural design issues from the company responsible, and an unusual method of construction undertaken by the company running the project.
Every year survivors, families, and the union movement commemorate this disaster on its anniversary 15 October.
We remember the 35 workers who did not go home at the end of the shift.
We remember those who were injured.
We remember the families who were forever changed.
We remember those people on site whose entire working lives would be overshadowed by what happened on 15 October 1970.