New podcast series unearths highway of horror
Who is responsible for the brutal deaths of 21 people one October morning in northern NSW?
Cowper, a new podcast series hopes to answer this question with an investigation into one of the worst road disasters in Australian history.
In the early hours of October 20, 1989, a semi-trailer suddenly veered onto the wrong side of the Pacific Highway just north of Grafton and collided with a tourist bus. The severity of the impact left a gruesome scene that stretched for almost a kilometre along the highway.
"What went on at the crash site haunts a lot of people and still does 30 years later," podcast creator Jenna Thompson said.
Named after the village in the Clarence Valley region where the crash occurred, Cowper takes listeners beyond that tragic morning to reveal several issues exposed in its wake.
"It was a shock to hear what happened next for so many people and I think for a lot of them, the aftermath was more traumatic than the crash," Ms Thompson said.
"I think for a lot of people we interviewed, it became a cathartic experience to finally open up after decades of concealing this internal trauma."
Over 20 people came forward to be interviewed and countless more contributed in other ways.
"A woman from Scotland contacted me after reading about the project online. It turned out she was on call at the local hospital when it happened. I also had a few people come in to the office to show me their mementos from the day in lieu of an interview."
For Ms Thompson, one item that stands out is a clock from inside one of the vehicles.
"It seems like such a mundane item, but this clock tells a story. It tells you exactly what time the impact happened and I don't think anyone, except for a very select few, have seen it before."
Rather than store the items away, Ms Thompson decided to expand the project to include these photos, documents and video footage to compliment extra interviews with people featured in the series.
"It started with just the podcast, but now it's become a full package for people to really delve into this forgotten piece of Australian history," she said.
Cowper will be released October 20.