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On This Day

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Written by Mum (Carol)

Jack was born 3 weeks after my birthday and 3 weeks before his father Lee's birthday. Our birthdays in 2005 were all to fall on a Tuesday. But on Tuesday the 1st November 2005, our world fell apart after we found out our son had been killed in an industrial accident on board a shark boat.

Our son, Jack, was kind, generous and had a heart of gold. He was always the first to help if you needed anything. "I'll wipe the dishes for you Mum" - "I'll mow the lawns Dad..." or, "I'll help you..." if we ever had money problems.

Jack liked his job as a crewman on a shark boat. He was looking forward to the fishing in the Parks, East of Western Australia Border, which they closed due to the whales. This is when the big catches come in and of course the big money. 

The normal skipper of the boat decided to take a couple of trips off as his wife had recently had a baby. He was going to meet the boat in Eucla.

Lee and I had gone to Coffins Bay with our neighbours, Pat and Paul. We had arrived on Monday 31 October 2005.

On Tuesday 1 November 2005, our day started with the four of us getting ready to go into Port Lincoln for lunch at the Tasman Hotel. It was Melbourne Cup day and there were TV Cameras, people interviewing locals and a very fun and exciting atmosphere. 

The strange thing was that I didn't feel happy. I don't know why.

After the Melbourne Cup race had been run, we looked around the hotel, found the Pokie room and stayed there for about half an hour. We then drove back to our room at Coffins Bay where Lee and Paul ate the oysters they had bought for tea and drank a good drop of red wine. 

I got in my nightdress ready for an early night while Pat did her crosswords.

At 8:30pm my favourite show, Dancing with the Stars, was about to begin. I settled on my chair and Lee lay on the bed reading The Advertiser. 

At 8:40pm a news update came on. Lee's ears pricked up when the news reader spoke..."A man has suffered serious head injuries following an industrial accident on board a boat between Ceduna and the Western Australia Border".

Right away Lee jumped off the bed saying "That's Jacks boat".

"Don't be stupid, they mean a big ship" I replied.

Lee went to the car and got his book out where he had several phone numbers. He looked for the number of the boat but as he couldn't find it so he rang the owner of the boat, Jack's employer.

The owner answered the phone and asked "Is that you Lee, you're in Coffins Bay?"  Lee replied "Yes, Is everything OK on the boat Jack's working on?"  There was a stretch of silence.  "They've had an accident and the Flying Doctor is waiting on the beach at Eucla" was the eventual reply.

Lee then asked "Is it Jack?"

The reply came back, "Yes..."  He said he was waiting to find out what was happening and would ring us back.  

At this point, I became hysterical, screaming "Jack's dead, Jack's dead!"  Pat was trying to calm me down.  She slapped my face and told me he probably just had a broken leg or something similar.

Don't ask me why, call it mothers intuition if you like, but I knew my boy was dead.

The phone rang at 8.55 pm.  I heard Lee say "Is that you Mick?"  Mick is Lee's brother.  I heard Lee talking and it was then that we learned that our Jack didn't make it.  Lee then went on to say we were leaving now and would arrive home in the morning.

Lee insisted on driving home. We stopped at a service station in Port Lincoln for petrol where Lee rang Mick and told him not to tell anyone until we got home, to which he replied it was too late, he'd rang Betty (Lee's sister) and she was breaking the news to our children and the rest of the family.

We arrived home at about 4.30 am Wednesday morning. Our daughters, Maria and Carlee, were waiting for us. Our other daughter, Francine, who had a 3 year old daughter and was 7 months pregnant, and our son, Gavin, stayed at their home. Later that morning Gavin and Francine and their families came over. I can't describe the hollow, empty feeling.  There was one missing.

We were soon joined by many relatives, our elderly mothers and father. The outpouring of love for Jack was amazing.

On Wednesday, Betty rang the undertaker and the priest.

All I wanted was for Jack to be back in Adelaide. When I asked when he would be back, I got "...tomorrow morning", then "...this afternoon", then "...Friday". Jacks body arrived at the Forensic Science Centre at 10.00 am. Lee was rung and asked if he could come in at 1:00pm to make a formal identification. I wanted to go but it was decided I should stay home. Lee, Gavin, Andrew (our son in law) and Mick went. Lee went in alone to make the identification. Then the others were allowed in to see Jack.

On their return home, I wanted to know what Jack looked like. Lee told me all that was showing was his eyes, nose and mouth, his head was covered.

We were told an autopsy was to be performed and so made arrangements for Jack to be buried on the Thursday, thinking this would be plenty of time.

My birthday was Tuesday.  I only wanted one thing and that was to see my son but he was still at the Forensic Science Centre. We rang Tony Monte, the Funeral Director, and he said he was going to pick Jack up on Wednesday afternoon.

I was told I could see him at 7:30 that evening. Lee and I drove to the funeral parlour. As I walked in the door, I saw this beautiful cedar coffin and it was open.  I stopped.  I was so scared, not wanting my son to be in it...but there he was.  My beautiful, handsome boy, looking like he was sound asleep. 

I hyperventilated. I wanted to be sick. I just looked at him telling him, "I love you Jack". I remember I wanted to take him home.  I didn't want to leave him there alone, but I was led to the car and driven home.

Thursday was the day of the funeral and we had arranged for the family to have a viewing of Jack.  I was swallowed up by the darkness of this day.  We had a beautiful service at Sacred Heart Catholic Church at Semaphore followed by committal at Cheltenham Cemetery.  After we had refreshments back at Tony Montes Funeral Parlour.  We went onto the wake at the Glanville Hotel because two of our children had shares in the hotel.

I just wish I could say life gets easier but it doesn't.  My life has changed.  I go to the Doctors every Monday, I go to the cemetery.  If we go out with friends, they know the only place I will go is to the Glanville Hotel.

We have wonderful family and friends.

I don't go out locally as I break down when I see people I know.

We believe Jack died at 4:30 pm.  It hurts to know that we heard about this on the news before the family were told.  We could have made different arrangements and been home with our family earlier.

I cry everyday.  I worry if Jack is alright.  I want to see him if only for 10 minutes just to tell him "I'm sorry if I ever upset you... I love you... you were special, so special." We get busy in life and we don't realise what we had until it's too late.