Letter to the Editor: Overpass Fencing Needed

My complaint is the City Of Greater Geraldton has failed to provide adequate infrastructure in the form of Overpass Fencing at the Durlacher Street Overpass. This is a public safety hazard that has posed immanent danger to both myself, and many others. Furthermore, either a lack of communication between Police and Council or the City’s neglect to address the issue has allowed this risk to continue to exist into the present day. 

One Friday night at approx. 6:55PM, I was driving my vehicle along the North West Coastal Highway and immediately under the Durlacher Street Overpass. A number of solid objects hit the roof of my car while I was travelling at a speed of approximately 70 KM/H. I immediately slowed the vehicle, turned into the left safety lane and stopped the vehicle. Initially, I was unsure as to the cause of the noise and impacts on the roof of my car. Had I not watched an episode of 'Australian Story' broadcast on the ABC earlier that same week about this very issue, it may have taken me a good deal longer to realise my car had been the target of rocks dropped or thrown from the Durlacher Street Overpass under which my car had just travelled. 

Being the time of year, the evening was already dark and it was difficult to see anything without artificial light. Nevertheless, and quite possibly inspired by having recently viewed said Australian Story on the ABC, I felt compelled to mitigate risk to the public by stopping the perpetrators. I was of course also incensed by my car having been struck by rocks, and my own life put in danger. 

After exiting my vehicle I orientated myself to where the rocks would have been ejected from the overpass above and dashed up the embankment. Seconds later, I arrived at the top of the embankment to witness the last of a small pack of 'bipeds' exiting the scene at speed. Hampered only by a low-lying, black plastic coated wire mesh fence, I hurled myself over the fence and at the biped at the back of the pack. I brought him to ground with a rugby style tackle to the legs. 

I wrestled this biped whom upon visual identification, I would describe as a mixed race White/Aboriginal boy of approximately fifteen years of age, to the bottom of said overpass and into my car. This was only accomplished I might add to the very vocal and physical objections of said boy. I had considered throwing him in the boot of the car, as this would be the only way I could realistically contain him while also driving the vehicle. Having been recently brainwashed by the bureaucratic bunk of studying for a Graduate Diploma in Education, I caved into my own fears of committing socio-political impropriety. Even though the pragmatist in me knew it would prove fruitless, instead of throwing the feral into the boot of the car, I delivered him into the passenger seat of my vehicle c/- the driver’s door. I attempted to start the vehicle with my right hand while restraining him with my left hand as he lashed out at me with punches and attempted to exit the vehicle from the passenger door. As I knew it would, my not putting him in the boot amounted to an exercise in theatrics rather than a pragmatic solution for delivering this young criminal to the local police station.

The young fellow’s cohorts had meanwhile responded to his screams for assistance and returned not only to the scene of their crime but to the embankment and within a few meters of my car. As my captive ducked according to their instructions, they proceeded to hurl not small rocks at me. Most rocks hit the outside of my car. Perhaps three or four rocks landed inside the car and I was indeed fortunate to escape being struck on the head at close range which may have rendered me unconscious or dead. In the course of the assault I relaxed my grip on my captive and he escaped into the night with his friends. Now together once again, they resumed hurling rocks at both my car and I from the top of the embankment until I drove from the scene.  

I was surprised to discover as I rounded a turn on this same highway, not fifty meters from where the incident had occurred, the spectacle of flashing police lights. I stopped my car behind the police car and ran over to police officers who were taking a statement from the driver and passenger of another vehicle with a smashed front windscreen. It was immediately obvious to me this vehicle had also been the target of rocks thrown from the Durlacher Street Overpass. A quick word with the driver confirmed this. I told the police officers I’d had one of the perpetrators in my custody only moments previously and that the culprits were still in the vicinity of the overpass. The police officers seemed to me to be slow to respond. Instead of taking chase they continued to take their notes and told me to attend the local Police Station to make a statement. I drove directly to the Geraldton Police Station where I made an incident report.

When asked by the police officer at the station if I had sustained any injuries I replied that I had been punched and also kicked in the leg/knee multiple times while wrestling the young fellow down the embankment and into my car. I said my knee was a bit sore but nothing serious. My arms and legs showed some slight redness but there seemed to be no serious injury, yet bruising would not show for at least a day or two.  

It was indeed two or three days later that I began to feel pain in my abdomen and stomach especially when I sat down, stood up or exerted any physical strain. Within a week after the incident I noticed swellings around my stomach. I thought they may be hernias as I had had a hernia repair some twenty years or more previously so I knew what a hernia looked like. I couldn’t understand why this would be the case however as I hadn’t been doing any physical labour around this time. Rather I was only doing sedentary work. I then realised I must have sustained these hernias as a result of my efforts to stop the offenders throwing rocks off the Durlacher Street Overpass. A doctor’s appointment referred me to an Ultra Sound. The Ultra Sound confirmed I had sustained a double hernia: one large, abdominal hernia and, a smaller, umbilical hernia. 

There is no doubt in my mind these hernias were sustained as a result of my having extending myself up the embankment, tackling and then wrestling said perpetrator down the embankment and attempting to restrain him for delivery to the local police. 

My hernias were finally repaired at Geraldton Regional Hospital. Convalescence to light physical work where I could resume usual household duties took about one month. I have a large block that requires regular maintenance. I was able to resume most gardening duties after a few months but will never be able to do some work that was previously effortless. 

Similarly, I’ve been advised, by the operating surgeon that I should never again do isotonic training (i.e. working out with weights at a gym) or any activity that requires excessive physical exertion. Suffice to say my enthusiasm for participating in many physical activities has been impaired or compromised by having sustained said hernias. Furthermore, I have periodic or recurring / intermittent pain in my stomach. I have discovered this is blocked energy as a result of hernia repair scar tissue in a complex and sensitive meridian region. 

Over the course of the years following this incident I have heard reports from various sources including Taxis and Trucks about rocks being thrown from the Durlacher Street Overpass onto traffic below. Considering the danger to public safety, the fact the City Of Greater Geraldton either hasn’t been properly briefed on this issue by Police or has simply failed in their duty to protect the Public Health & Safety is, startling. A channel of communication obviously needs to be established between police and the city council so such issues can be adequately addressed. 

In retrospect I feel I should be compensated for having put myself in harm’s way in the public interest and having sustained injury that has ultimately compromised my employability and quality of life. It also seems to me that unless the city has something similar happen to one of its own inner circle or stands to lose money through a suit for damages or compensation they will not afford the matter attention. 

Yes, Overpass Fencing needs to be erected at Durlacher Street Overpass YESTERDAY.

- TC