JUNE is the hardest month for Jim and Helen Bragg, when Palmdale lawn cemetery on the Central Coast becomes “our second home”.
Their daughter Roslyn, 29, her partner Adam Holt, 30, their two granddaughters Madison, 3, and Jasmine, 2, and their daughter Sharon’s son Travis, 9, died when a section of the Old Pacific Highway collapsed during the Pasha Bulker storm on June 8, 2007 and the five were swept away in the raging floodwaters of Piles Creek.
Mr and Mrs Bragg visit Palmdale each year on the anniversary. They go to Palmdale again on Roslyn’s birthday, June 23, and on the birthday of their baby son, James, who was a cot death baby at three months old, many years ago, and also in June.
“June is not a good month, but no month is a good month when five members of your family die. It never leaves you, ever,” Mrs Bragg said.
“There’s always birthdays and anniversaries and holidays when you’re reminded of what you’ve lost, so we go to Palmdale.”
Mr and Mrs Bragg travel to Somersby regularly to visit a memorial near the bridge that was built after the tragic events of that night nearly 10 years ago, and named the Bragg-Holt bridge after the family that was lost.
They take a lawnmower and whipper snipper to care for the memorial, weep at times, and renew the anger they feel towards Gosford City Council – now the amalgamated Central Coast Council – which an inquest found was largely responsible for the road’s collapse.
The council’s failure to care for the memorial is indicative of the council’s response to the tragedy, Mr and Mrs Bragg said.
“We still can’t believe no one was prosecuted or lost their job at the council because of what happened,” Mrs Bragg said.
“We live with a lot of hate for people who didn’t do the right thing. You’d think they could mow the grass around the memorial and make sure the weeds don’t come up but that seems to be beyond them. It’s in the past for them. We’ve got to live with what happened every minute of the day.”
Mr Bragg wept as he remembered the hours that passed on June 8, 2007 after Roslyn and her daughters dropped in to the Darrell Lea store in Gosford that her parents owned. The long weekend storm that eventually claimed nine Hunter and Central Coast lives was already wild on that Friday afternoon.
“Roslyn said she was going to our daughter Sharon’s house and she also had to take Adam to work at Somersby,” Mr Bragg said.
A few hours later, and after the storm dramatically increased in intensity, Mr and Mrs Bragg grew alarmed when they could not contact Roslyn or Adam.
They went to their daughter’s house, they rang friends, family members, police and local hospitals, and several times went to The Entrance police station for news.
It was at the police station that they learnt of the Old Pacific Highway collapse at Somersby, near where Adam Holt worked.
“As soon as we walked in and said our name about six coppers looked up with funny looks on their faces and we just knew,” Mr Bragg said.
The memory reduced him to tears.
“The tears are never far away, and especially now,” Mrs Bragg said.
“We can’t believe it’s been 10 years.”
At an inquest in 2008 into the Old Pacific Highway collapse NSW Deputy State Coroner Paul MacMahon said the deaths of Roslyn Bragg, Adam Holt and the three children was an “unnecessary” tragedy.
He criticised the council, and compared its failure to act on warnings about the road with the Sergeant Schultz character on the 1960s television show Hogan’s Heroes, “whose defence to everything was ‘I know nothing’.”
“It must have been apparent, even to a layperson but especially to a qualified engineer, that the loss of the structural integrity of the culvert pipes due to rusting and the continual washing away of material from the area of the culvert would at some time lead to its collapse,” Mr MacMahon said.
Mr and Mrs Bragg sold their business in the immediate aftermath of the storm and the deaths.
“The council’s incompetence basically destroyed a lot of people’s lives,” Mr Bragg said.
They take comfort from the support they continue to receive from the community. The Entrance Bateau Bay Football Club, where Travis Bragg was a player, presents a trophy each year in his honour.
“Sharon says a few words each year until she starts crying,” Mrs Bragg said.
Mr Bragg takes a single rose to a beautiful area at Palmdale where there are plaques for his daughter, her family and his other daughter’s son, and heartbreaking photos of five lost young lives.
He places the rose beside the plaque where his daughter is forever smiling.
“He always called Roslyn his rose when she was alive,” Mrs Bragg said.
The extended Bragg family will leave the Central Coast for the 10th anniversary of the Pasha Bulker storm and gather at a location in the Hunter.
“It’s very hard to talk about it,” Mr Bragg said.
“The pain of what happened confronts you every day. There’s photos on the walls. There’s significant dates. Others can forget. We can never forget.”