Pledge to repair fatal Tangaratta bridge

IT WAS a bizarre coincidence that on the same day Jim and Lyris Hornby visited the bridge where their truck driver son died after a devastating accident earlier this year, the state Member for Tamworth pledged $5 million to fix it. 

Phillip Hornby died at the Tangaratta Bridge, 10km west of Tamworth on the Oxley Highway, on April 2 after his B-double crashed; killing him and most of the cattle he was carrying, instantly.

His death prompted an overwhelming response from the local community who were fed up with the unsafe bridge and demanded its replacement, or for it to at least be widened.

The bridge is the same spot where a bus crashed in 1992, killing five people.

Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson listened to the demands and yesterday announced the state government had pledged millions to address the bridge’s safety issues.

“My office had been inundated with calls for change,” he said.

The Hornbys made the six-hour journey from Blayney, near Orange, to visit their son’s memorial site at the bridge and said it was almost by fate that yesterday’s announcement was being made at the same time.

“It’s just a coincidence that Jim and I are here today,” Mrs Hornby said.

“We are so grateful to the community for getting on board and getting this fixed.” 

Mr Anderson said, for the thousands of motorists that use the highway, the bridge across Tangaratta Creek presented many concerns.

“The southern side approach, in particular, has been a major problem,” he said.

Mr Anderson noted the bridge was quite narrow, with a dangerous curve, and most regional users of the highway were keen not to use it.

Local farmer Bede Burke said he would often make a separate journey, adding many more kilometres onto a trip, just to avoid it.

Mr Anderson said the replacement of the bridge came after the safety audit he called for in April, as well as a Facebook campaign launched by local woman Nicole Burne.

Mrs Burne is the wife of a truck driver and said she remembers the day she heard the news about Phillip Hornby’s death.

“My husband was actually unloading at Tamworth and I thought it might have been him,” she said.

She soon took to Facebook, creating a petition that received widespread support.

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