Girls’ lucky escape as car crashes into home

Mitch Barr surveys the damage to his home after a car crashed into the front, narrowly missing his two daughters and their friend. Picture: GLENN ELLARDThree girls were only a minute from disaster on Saturday night as a car crashed into a Worrigee home, demolishing a room which they had just left.Sisters Bethany and Grace Barr and friend Ellie Morrison were in the computer room at the house but left about 11pm to brush their teeth before going to bed.Moments after the three girls, aged from 10 to 15, left the room, a car crashed into the house, destroying the computer room and part of the garage.The girls hadn’t even shut the computer room’s door when the car crashed through walls and windows where they had just been sitting.The Toyota Celica driven by a 22-year-old Sussex Inlet man had become airborne after hitting the scoop drain outside the Myall Close home.The car and driver had been at a party just a short distance along the cul-de-sac, and narrowly avoided a parked car before careering into the Barrs’ house, hitting the gutter and becoming airborne.The car cleared a tiered garden but sheared off the top of a plant nearly 2m from the base, with the top landing on the roof of the home.The Toyota then landed on a car parked in the sloping driveway, before proceeding through windows and walls into the garage and computer room.The driver was later charged with mid-range drink driving, and will face Nowra Local Court in coming weeks.Owner of the house and car that were crushed, Mitch Barr, was yesterday still shaking his head at how close the girls and the driver had come to a tragedy.Looking at the pile of rubble that was once his computer room, “There’s no way they would have got out of that,” Mr Barr said.”I just don’t see how they could have survived if they’d been in there.”Mr Barr said he was not particularly worried about the damage to his house or car, or to all the computer equipment he used in his work in information technology.In fact he believes a large piece of computing equipment, weighing close to 80kg, which was in the car’s path may well have helped stop the vehicle travelling further into the home.”It’s only property and possessions,” Mr Barr said.”It can all be replaced at the end of the day. “You can’t replace kids.”However, Mr Barr said the girls were traumatised by their experience.He said the family may have to move to stop the girls being frightened of a repeat crash.He was particularly worried about eldest daughter Bethany, 15, who was coming up to Year 10 exams at Nowra High School, and was hard hit by the incident because of her efforts to contact her parents.Mr Barr and wife Alison, along with Paul and Paula Morrison, were at a function in North Nowra and were not informed about the accident until later in the evening.The home suffered extensive structural damage during the incident. Mr Barr praised the efforts of emergency service personnel including volunteers from the SES, who turned up at 3.30am to install supports to keep the computer room’s ceiling from collapsing.
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14,000 riders take part in Sydney to Gong

Members of the Mark M Industrial team Ian Picton (rear) of Woonona, Dieter Loemker, of East Corrimal, and Charlie Formosa (front) of Balgownie. Picture: ORLANDO CHIODOWollongong was cycle central yesterday as more than 14,000 riders descended for the 2008 MS Sydney to Gong Bike Ride.Records for the 27th ride were sunk faster than a sports drink, with $1.7 million expected to be raised to support people with multiple sclerosis.Illawarra-based Team CSC set a new benchmark, raising just over $83,000, the highest amount by a team in the history of the ride.”It feels fantastic to raise that much for MS,” said team captain Kirk Barrett.The event was not without incident, Illawarra ambulance district manager Norm Rees reporting one of the busiest City to Gong events for ambulance personnel.An 83-year-old man suffered critical head injuries after losing control of his bike while riding down a hill on Lawrence Hargrave Dr at Thirroul just after midday.He was taken to Wollongong Hospital and was last night reported in a critical condition.A 65-year-old rider suffered a heart attack on Sea Cliff Bridge at 2pm.He was revived by paramedics and was last night in a stable condition in Wollongong Hospital.At 8.25am a 67-year-old rider went over his handlebars on McKell Dr, Waterfall.He was taken to St George Hospital suffering head and chest injuries.Mr Rees said 24 people were treated by paramedics, half of whom were taken to hospital for further treatment.Another 300 people were attended to by St John Ambulance officers for injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to dehydration.Overcast skies provided ideal cycling conditions for riders who set out early for either the 90km run from Sydney Park, St Peters, or the 56km run from Heathcote High School.It was smooth cycling for the 29 members of the Illawarra Cycle Club, with Dapto’s Dave McMaster leading the charge, finishing the 90km ride in 2hr38min.Albion Park triathlete Kerry Augustson, the sixth-ranked female in the world, used the race as a warm-up for the World Triathlon Championships, to be held in Florida on Saturday.MS Australia spokesperson Vanessa Juresic said she was thrilled with the outcome of this year’s event.”It’s been a fabulous day, a huge success,” she said.
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Downturn sprouts vegetable patch boom

Billy Foye tends to his backyard vegie patch that he established nearly 60 years ago. Mr Foye cannot understand why it has taken an economic downturn to generate a vegie patch revival. Picture: SYLVIA LIBERA dreary economic outlook has created a boom in backyard gardens, with budding green thumbs intent on growing their own fresh produce.Nurseries throughout the Illawarra have reported a stampede for vegetable seedlings.Gwen Reid, of Unanderra Nursery, said it was a record period in her 46-year career.”Sales normally break down to 70 per cent flowers and 30 per cent vegetables but this year it is the other way around,” she said.Mrs Reid said customers do not give reasons for their purchase but she suspected it was a result of the economic downturn.”They used to throw a lot of $50 notes across the counter but now they tend to give over a lot of change,” she said. “I think it’s money they used to throw in money boxes but they are now using more for day-to-day transactions.”And I also suspect … people are spending more time at home so the garden fits easily into that sort of scenario.”Wollongong Wholesale Nursery horticulturist Russell Dixon said the trend began last year and showed no signs of letting up. “Sales of vegetable seedlings are definitely up significantly,” he said. “I assume it has something to do with the rising costs of petrol et cetera but I think it also has a lot to do with people fed up with poor quality vegetables in the shops.”Nick Szewcow from Sunrise Nursery at Helensburgh agreed it was a bumper year.”We’ve doubled sales this year on last year in vegetable seeds, seedlings and herbs – the herbs this year are really popular,” he said. “The demand is such that we have to get in supplies twice a week opposed to our usual once-a-week deliveries.”Mr Szewcow said lots of people were also involving their children in the project.”We’ve had a lot of interest in no-dig gardens… which I think indicates people want the benefits of home-grown vegies without the hard work,” he said.
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Sumo the malamute facing death row

A distressed Walter Duran with a picture of Sumo, who he claims is no threat to neighbourhood children. Picture: Melanie RussellFigtree’s Walter Duran is pleading for Wollongong City Council to reconsider putting down his Alaskan malamute Sumo, who has been caught twice killing animals.The decision, by a newly formed panel, comes only weeks before the animal’s status of dangerous dog was to be reviewed before the courts.”I’m not happy about what Sumo has done but he does not deserve to die … he has never shown any aggression towards humans,” Mr Duran said.”I accept I should have exercised more control, but feel they are punishing me by taking my best mate away and that they should at least wait for my appeal to be heard in a proper fashion.”Sumo was declared a dangerous dog in June this year over his attack on a free-range chicken. Mr Duran was due to go back to Wollongong Local Court on November 17 to appeal that decision, but in the meantime Sumo attacked and killed a baby goat near an off-leash area at Figtree last month.Rangers seized him the next day on October 24 and the panel, which has powers to destroy an animal under special circumstances, recommended the dog be euthanised on a day to be decided this week.”While the panel members expressed their sympathy for Sumo, the circumstances and the owners’ non-compliance with the requirements (of a dangerous dog declaration) indicate a very real risk to the public,” a council spokesperson said.Mr Duran said he was under the impression that while his appeal was pending requirements that Sumo be muzzled and kept on a leash were necessary.”I’ve had Sumo for eight years and kids and families in the street love him,” he said.”I’ve been down to see him in the pound and it broke my heart because he is used to living in our house and he is stuck in a cage surrounded by a pit-bull.”John and Sherin Walter, who live in Mr Duran’s street, said they were saddened to hear Sumo was soon to be put down. “We’ve had him wander into the yard and sniff around, but he has never been a problem, not even with our four-year-old son,” Mrs Walter said.Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said although she didn’t believe the dog was dangerous she described him as a pest, partly due to the fact he was not adequately controlled. Wollongong vet Mark Allison said it was not unusual for dogs to go for small animals, even other dogs.”It can present a risk if you have tiny kids wandering nearby,” he said.”But to put a dog down for this type of thing seems a bit extreme, particularly when you consider there are alternatives such as behavioral treatment, which can be successful with dogs like this.”It is understood it is prohibited under the Companion Animals Act to rehouse a dangerous dog, or proposed dangerous dog.
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Briefs

Labor and Long Tan
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[BB] CANBERRA – A Labor government would launch an inquiry that could result in the veterans of the Battle of Long Tan awarded bravery decorations denied to them 38 years ago. Graham Edwards, parliamentary secretary to Opposition defence spokesman Kim Beazley, said Labor was concerned at the downgrading of imperial bravery awards recommended for those who fought in the best known of Australia’s Vietnam War battles.

The Long Tan battle took place on August 18, 1966, when members of Delta company, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment set out to find Vietcong mortar crews who had attacked the Australian base.

New defence strategy

CANBERRA – Swarms of small expendable unmanned aircraft, all directed by a type of collective intelligence, could become a key part of Australia’s defence in years to come, a defence scientist said.

Mathematician Alex Ryan, of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, said the use of many small, simple and inexpensive unmanned aerial vehicles, each costing less than $20,000, was a more practical answer than larger, more sophisticated vehicles that cost millions of dollars.

Mr Ryan said they could be used for surveillance of possible enemy activity, as small weapons carriers or to investigate areas too dangerous for humans.

Greenhouse projects

CANBERRA – Australia and China have agreed on six new projects to combat greenhouse gases under a memorandum of understanding signed yesterday.

The projects range from using satellite imagery to help measure greenhouse emissions from farms, to helping China formulate a national climate change strategy.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who signed the MOU in Beijing with China’s National Development and Reform Commission, said both countries had much to gain from a bilateral programme in the climate change area.

Cosima debuts at top

SYDNEY – Singer Cosima De Vito yesterday became the first independent Australian artist to have a single debut at number one on the ARIA charts.

De Vito’s cover of the Cold Chisel classic When The War Is Over hit stores this week, securing top spot on the Australian Record Industry Association singles charts.

Her Australian Idol counterparts Shannon Noll, Paulini Curuenevuli and winner Guy Sebastian have all had number one hits but with the backing of major labels.

Pollution link to brain

SYDNEY – A surge in the number of people suffering brain diseases in Australia and other Western countries is likely to have been caused by environmental factors.

A report in the journal Public Health says the number of people suffering Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and motor-neurone disease has soared in Western countries.

Scientists have linked the increase to rises in the level of pesticides, industrial effluents, domestic waste, car exhausts and other pollutants.

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No flu around, it’s all fillies go at Kembla

Ashlee Bridge, Jesse Breasley, Johanna Smith, Melissa Bevis and Kate Ingram survey Fashions on the Field at last year’s phantom meeting at Kembla Grange.Capacity crowds are expected at Kembla Grange tomorrow, with organisers anticipating a post-horse flu resurgence in racegoing.Last year’s Kembla Grange event went ahead despite the equine outbreak, but the go-ahead came too late for some.Kembla Grange race manager Michael Craig expects those who made other plans in 2007 will be back in force this time around. “Up until a week or two before the Melbourne Cup last year people weren’t even sure that we’d be racing again so I guess they would have changed their plans for Melbourne Cup day and gone elsewhere,” he said.”We still had a pretty good crowd, but we would normally expect 1000 or 1500 people more. “The crowds we’ve had since full-time racing commenced have certainly picked up again and if they’re not as good as they’ve ever been they may even be a touch better.”Melbourne Cup day continues to outperform any other event on the Kembla Grange racetrack, with up to 8000 people attending the day in a good year. Mr Craig expects a strong contingent of young people to bolster crowd numbers this year.”The crowds are getting younger and they’re starting to dress up more rather than just go to the races and have a bet,” he said. This year’s Fashions on the Field offers $1500 worth of prizes to winners in three categories – men’s racewear, women’s racewear and head-turning headwear.Contestants will be judged on how appropriate their outfit is for the occasion and for them.”Judges will also be looking for an overall outfit, as opposed to one component, and the interpretation of this season’s racing fashion,” Kembla Grange racecourse marketing manager Kim Lawrie said.A large-screen television will broadcast race action from Melbourne on the day, with no breaks planned in this year’s schedule.
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Premier urged to take $650,000 back

SPLIT CLAIM: Peg Putt. (1/3)But the Premier gave no response to the request.
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Mr Butler resigned as Governor last week and was offered the ex-gratia payment by Mr Lennon despite there being no legal requirement for any payment.

Yesterday, Mr Hidding said the public outrage at the size of the payout, on top of the $300,000 salary Mr Butler had received for his 10 months in office, meant the golden handshake should be rethought.

He said Mr Lennon should seek legal advice from the Solicitor-General about rescinding the payment.

“People believe that $650,000 is simply way too much, way over the top and completely out of touch with reality,” Mr Hidding said.

Mr Hidding said most Tasmanians did not trust the Government’s account of what took place in the lead-up to Mr Butler’s resignation.

Auditor-General Mike Blake has indicated that he will conduct an inquiry into the legality of the payment.

Greens leader Peg Putt said dissatisfaction over Mr Lennon’s handling of the case was evidenced by splits within the Labor Party.

She said Mr Lennon’s denials of knowledge of the circumstances that led to the recent mass walkout of Government House senior staff were reminiscent of the Prime Minister denying he knew the truth about the “children overboard” affair.

“Confidence in the Premier has plummeted within the Parliamentary Labor Party, exacerbating splits which emerged over allocation of ministries. Now the Tasmanian community has also lost confidence in him over his contradictory statements and the outrageous, unwarranted payout he initiated,” Ms Putt said.

“(The Premier) has now become the issue, and his behaviour and inconsistencies are reflecting badly on Tasmania.”

Both the Liberals and the Greens are demanding to know details of the deed of release between Mr Lennon and Mr Butler, including: at what point was the money offered to Mr Butler; how was the amount arrived at, and; who initiated the confidentiality clause that was ultimately scratched?

Education Minister Paula Wriedt defended Mr Lennon yesterday, saying Ms Putt had been out of the State last week and therefore had not caught up on the facts.

“With a little bit of homework, Ms Putt would have been able to answer many of her own questions,” Ms Wriedt said. “Instead, she has chosen to see conspiracies in everything. What secrecy and contradictions is she referring to? Where is her evidence of a split over the Premier’s handling of this issue?”

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Do-or-die Cup bid for Get Up Jude

Kembla Grange trainer Diane Poidevin-Laine will not leave any tricks in the bag in an effort to qualify Get Up Jude for the Melbourne Cup in today’s Saab Quality (2500m) at Flemington.The five-year-old needs to win the Saab to be assured of a start on Tuesday and has been working in blinkers all week.He will carry the hood for the first time in a race today and travelling stable foreman Carl Poidevin said Get Up Jude would be ridden midfield, a lot closer than in the Geelong Cup, when he got too far back.”The blinkers have really switched him on and I think you will find he might be a bit closer on Saturday,” Poidevin said.”It is something we have been thinking about for a while. It’s do-or-die in the Saab, because he has to win to get into the Melbourne Cup, and we want to use everything we had up our sleeve.”Get Up Jude was never a factor in a slowly run Geelong Cup, when 11th to Bauer, but Poidevin puts it down to the gelding not settling into his new home at Mornington as much as the slow speed.Poidevin has taken several blood tests from Get Up Jude this week to make sure he has not trained off and has been getting more confident by the day.”Every blood (test) has come back better than the one before it,” he said. “He is so fit and well and in the last couple of days he has really come through in his coat.”He is a lot brighter than he was before Geelong and I think he is back to the horse we had in Sydney at the beginning of the month.”Get Up Jude won the Group Three Colin Stephen Quality (2400m) on September 27 before being unlucky when third to Newport in the Group One Metropolitan (2400m) at Randwick a week later.Poidevin believes the big track at Flemington is a bonus for Get Up Jude, plus the likelihood of genuine speed.A win in the Saab carries with it an exemption from the ballot for the Melbourne Cup, which Get Up Jude will need to catapult him into the field from No 32 in the order of entry.However, connections are likely to pay the final acceptance for Get Up Jude even if he doesn’t win today.”The way things are going with all the horses dropping out we might get lucky and get a start (in the Melbourne Cup),” Poidevin said.
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BRIEFS

Venezuelans vote
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CARACAS – Venezuelans went to the polls yesterday to determine whether leftist President Hugo Chavez should step down, in a vote held amid concerns that violence could flare up in the oil-rich South American country. More than 14 million voters were eligible to participate in the referendum to decide whether the leader’s mandate should be revoked two years before it ends.

Opinion polls gave an edge to the controversial former paratrooper. Pollsters were generally reluctant to call the race ahead of time, citing a high number of people who remained undecided ahead of the vote.

Political analysts have warned a close outcome would heighten the risk of bloodshed.

Boat fire kills 12

JAKARTA – At least 12 people were killed when a wooden vessel caught fire in rough seawaters in north-eastern Indonesia, news reports said yesterday.

The boat, carrying at least 45 people, including eight crew members, caught fire on Friday morning in the Belang Sea, according to the local Media Indonesia daily.

The site of the fire was off the coast of North Sulawesi province, about 2000km north-east of Jakarta.

Twenty-five passengers and all of the boat’s eight crew members were saved by rescue workers and local fishermen, the report said.

Megawati boost

JAKARTA – The Golkar party of ex-dictator Suharto was expected to endorse Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri today ahead of the September run-off election, providing a much-needed boost to her struggling campaign.

Ms Megawati finished second behind Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in the July 5 presidential poll and continues to trail her former security minister in opinion polls.

Since neither candidate won 50 per cent of the vote, they will contest a September 20 run-off.

Senior Golkar leader Rully Chairul Azwar said the party’s executive board began meeting yesterday.

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COASTAL PATROL CRISIS

CLARIFICATION: Mr McGrathAfter the meeting at the Sunny Hill Country Club in Launceston, Mr McGrath said Tasmanian members were devastated and extremely upset with the national body’s decision to cease operations in the State for financial reasons.
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He said the meeting wanted him to clarify earlier statements to the effect that the money was owed.

“The national body is a company and a company cannot owe itself money,” he said.

“While the national body may say the Tasmanian group is trading in deficit, virtually, it is not a debt that’s owed – it’s just written off.”

RVCP operations in Tasmania remain closed until alternative funding and future control of the operation are sorted out.

Mr McGrath said the Tasmanian members had agreed to approach State Public Safety Minister David Llewellyn to discuss the RVCP’s future in Tasmania.

“It was suggested that a follow- up be done with David Llewellyn, who indicated his department may be willing to take on the RVCP as an auxiliary unit for the water police,” Mr McGrath said.

“If that happened we would be able to leave everything intact down here and it would allow the Tasmanian unit to continue to operate as a single unit under the Tasmanian Government rather than our national organisation,” he said.

“Failing that, it was suggested another private Tasmanian group may be able to obtain funding within the State to take over responsibility for the RVCP.”

Mr McGrath said he could not guarantee that RVCP assets would be handed over after a State Government takeover.

“It is a matter that has been considered, but there are certain vessels down here which are controlled by the NSW State Government and may have to come back to NSW for maritime museums – or the two governments may be able to reach a compromise, but all that is very fluid,” he said.

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