I was thirteen and a student at Footscray Girls High on 15 October 1970. I remember hearing the police and ambulance sirens, and the principal calling to the office girls whose fathers or brothers worked on the bridge. I remember the horrific images on the television that night as the dead men were carried out on stretchers by their mates, and as they were lined up on the roadway while their families waited. Thirty-five men were killed. I also remember the Royal Commission Report: ‘Error begat error ... and the events which led to the disaster moved with the inevitability of a Greek Tragedy’.
Fifty years ago today Melbourne’s West Gate Bridge collapsed, thirty-five construction workers were killed and eighteen were injured. It remains Australia’s worst industrial accident to this day.
Melbourne author Enza Gandolfo’s Stella prize–shortlisted novel The Bridge draws on the collapse and her own memories of that tragic day in 1970. It was written in part as a tribute to the men who built the West Gate Bridge — the victims and the survivors — and their families, to give voice to their stories.
You can read more about how Enza came to write the book here.