|To all my friends,
I am sending this to all in my address book,
basically it's a long story which I want you to hear but can't tell
everyone on the phone.
Firstly, I'm fine. Extremely, and I am talking
extremely lucky. The doctor made me have a blood test as a precaution
as I got a lot of blood on me from other people, but assures me
it will be clear.
Yes, I was there, about 30 or 40 metres
or 10 seconds away to be exact.
Thank you very, very much to all those who called
me, sorry I was short, but from the email you will read why that
was the case.
Ok, here's how it happened....
I had been in Bali for about 10 days and had
an excellent time up until the night of 12 October. I had gone away
with some excellent people I have been working with here in East
Timor with the UN. Mike a NZ Air Force Squadron Leader, Nick a Riot
Cop from Liverpool in the UK and Francisco a Captain from the Portuguese
Paratroopers. We had been white water rafting, jet skiing, parasailing
and drinking a truckload of beers. Which is pretty much your standard
Bali holiday. I have even got a bloody good tan.
Every night was about the same. Have an afternoon
siesta, get up around 8pm, dinner until 9.30pm, get to Paddy's by
10pm for Happy Hour. Then over to the Sari Club sometime between
11.30pm to midnight, home nice and early (never before 5am). Call
us creatures of habit, but other than Paddy's or Sari, there's not
much else. That was where all the Aussies and other westerners went
to, and every night both places were packed.
The 12th was no different, had dinner, we were
joined by some backpackers from the UK, Lucinda and Anna. They had
just flown in from Cambodia and we were swapping stories about drinking
in Phnom Penh. We arrived at Paddy's after 10pm and one of the lads
bough the first round, some absolutely crap German beer which was
on special. I drank half, which I was no enjoying, keen for a Carlsberg.
I had been meaning to go to the internet café that day and
transfer some of the USD I have been earning in East Timor to another
account. I wanted to do it as the cash was building up and would
be better off my mortgage. I though now was a good time, rather
than trying to do it after 27 beers. So I headed off to the internet
café, ANZ internet banking wasn't working after 4 attempts.
So I decided to have another beer with the lads and try again.
I walked back to Paddy's and the next round they
had bought was again this crap German beer. There was a German guy
who had joined the group and was standing next to me; I saw his
name hours later on the list of dead on the wall of Denpasar General
Hospital. That night nothing was out of the ordinary, the same as
every other night we had been there before. However when I think
about it and talking to my friends, there was one thing. When I
returned to Paddy's, on my left was the German guy, and on my right
was a Middle Eastern looking male who was very much out of place.
He was wearing a blue and white-stripped shirt and his eyes were
very weird and he was sweating heavily. He was not drinking and
was just looking at the place, not at the girls, not at the TV,
just keeping a look out. He didn't like making eye contact with
me, and dropped his stare. I thought it was weird, but that was
all. My mate Nick thought the same. We passed this onto the Federal
Police in an interview today.
I had a quick chat and told them I would be back
to buy a round of Carlsberg. Mike turned and said to me, in all
seriousness, "Cocksy its you last night in Bali, you have to
go out with a bang". In about 2 minutes from then, he wasn't
further from the truth. I had a look at the dance floor at the back,
full of people, then headed up stairs to have a look. It had crossed
my mind to go to the toilet, but for some reason I still do not
know now, I went up the stairs. The top dance floor had a few people
on it but not a lot going on, I headed back down the stairs and
saw the guys weren't ready for another beer yet. So I decided to
go and try the internet bank again while I will still sober. The
guy in the blue and white stripped shirt had gone. So I headed out
onto Legian Street towards the internet café.
I was about 10 seconds away from the front entrance,
or about 30 or 40 metres when the first blast went off. The power
was cut and I knew something was wrong. About 2 or 3 seconds later
hell on earth started. The blast threw me on the ground and I was
covered in glass. The flames rose 50 metres into the air lighting
the area up and I could see the silhouettes of many people in front
of and in the blast. The Sari Club and Paddy's were in flames. I
had to get out of there and find my mates. I located Nick and Francisco,
they couldn't hear me as their hearing was damaged in the blast.
I couldn't find Mike, Francisco has seen him get out but was running
towards to the Sari. They had Ana and Lucinda with them; Anna was
in a bad way with a badly burnt back. I picked a girl up who was
in a really bad way, she was from Geelong and I found out that later
on she died - 95% burns to her body. We took them back to the hotel
which was not to far away. The front lawn of the hotel was awash
with blood and the smell of burnt flesh. I was gagging carrying
that girl back.
We gave what first aid we could on the lawn;
most people were standing around doing nothing. It was hard to get
people to even get a blanket from their room. The Balinese cab drivers
were not taking people who had blood on them. We organised the owner
from the hotel to take the critical ones in his ute to the hospital.
We then found Mike, initially he looked fine. It was a big relief
as I was planning to go back to the Sari and Paddy's to look for
him. After he had been there for 5 minutes I saw his back, it was
burnt so bad it was bleeding, blistered and blackened in places.
We all must have been running on adrenalin, as he still had no pain.
I then grabbed my phone, passport and torch and told Mike I was
taking Anna and him to the hospital.
I called home and to East Timor on the way to
the hospital. In 15 minutes my phone went mad and did not stop for
the next 24 hours. The General in East Timor directed that I stay
in Bali and give updates on the general situation, medical situation,
and account for all UN personnel in Bali on leave. I was their only
contact on the ground. At that time I knew that there was about
30 Portuguese Paratroopers on leave there who all went to the Sari
every night. I checked Mike and Anna into a clinic in Kuta who handled
ex-pats; the place was out of control.
I then got in a cab and headed for the Denpasar
General Hospital, which is the biggest hospital on the island. What
I saw there will remain with me forever, it was totally out of control
and made me realise how lucky I was. The place was like a scene
from WW1 movie in a trench hospital. Dead people everywhere, people
so burnt they were unrecognisable, people screaming, people getting
CPR, and the worst part was that most of them were Australians aged
between 20 - 30. I arrived there at 12.30 am, an hour after the
blast. I rang East Timor and told then to get medical people there
ASAP, they started planning a medical team to fly in from Dili.
I don't think any hospital in the world would have been ready for
what happened, and Denpasar General certainly was not.
I then spent the next 4 - 5 hours looking for
UN personnel, some were in different hospitals with burns and shrapnel
wounds. They were discharged or about to be discharged. I made it
back to the clinic where Mike and Anna were, Mike was flying on
morphine by then. The UN started sending me faxes of lists of UN
personnel which had to be accounted for. I could account for some
from going to the hospitals, but there was still some 40 unaccounted
for, and this was at 6am the next morning. Francisco was also with
Mike so we set off to find these Portuguese and Brazilian soldier
on motorbike. As the Sari and Paddy's we basically in the middle
of Kuta, the quickest way to get to these hotels was to get through
the crowds of locals who were gathering around the site and walk
through the site. Armed with my army ID we crossed through. The
Indonesian police and army had already started getting the bodies
out, which was now a row about 50 or 60 metres long. Some of them
were covered, but it looked like they had run out of body bags hours
ago, and then ran out of white sheets, so the badly burnt ones were
lying in the sun.
After hours of bashing on hotel doors and walking
around the hospitals looking at the injured and some dead, we were
still one Portuguese paratrooper and one Brazilian soldier missing.
They were both on the main dance floor at the Sari at the time of
the blast. I believe there are in the morgue in the area with the
unrecognisable bodies, however we are still hopeful that they may
have been accidentally evacuated to Australia due to sloppy Indonesian
paperwork, though very unlikely.
I ended up getting 4 hours sleep between 2am
and 6am Monday morning, to be woken up by a call from the UN saying
that we were going to be evacuated back to Dili and I was coordinating
the first flight and Francisco the second. The first flight was
on Monday night, then second on Wednesday morning. I took most of
the Portuguese and Brazilians with me, leaving a few behind to identify
the bodies if needed. To date they still do not have a positive
Funnily enough one of the harder things I had
to do was get 40 of them onto the UN jet. Once they passed through
the express immigration I had organised, they didn't understand
what proceed to Gate 9 meant. As a result they ended up getting
drunk at the bars around the airport. The UN Air Ops guy told me
the 2 hour delay had cost the UN $20K USD, I told him the lads had
all had a hard night......
After hitting the deck in Dili I slept for about
20 hours and then I briefed and got I debriefed. Over the last two
days I have just been chauffeured around to the General, my Colonel,
the doctor, the psychs, the Federal Police, the Portuguese Commander..........
I go back and see the doc on Friday and will
be heading back to my border post on Monday. I am fine and have
not turned into a nut case or an alcoholic (well not anymore than
the amount we were drinking in Bali leading up to the 12th!!).
One thing which I am very aware of when I watch
the media coverage here is how lucky I am. I see a lot of familiar
faces on the TV, particularly the football and rugby lads. I spoke
with them all at the Denpasar Hospital. I was lucky to get out and
so were my mates.
Mike - He has got 10% burns to his body on his
face, hand and back.He's now in the plastic surgery area of the
burns unit of Singapore Hospital. He tells me the burns have added
to his rugged looks, and even though he is married the chicks will
still love him! Also having some problems with his hearing - awaiting
Nick - Unconfirmed, but looks like deaf in one
ear. The other ear is potentially repairable. Big cut on his foot
and head, all patched up. Evacuated to Darwin.
Francisco - Same problem with hearing. Severely
burnt ear and shrapnel wounds to his back. Evacuated to Darwin.
Lucinda - Shrapnel wounds to her legs,
all patched up. Evacuated to Sydney.
Anna - Burns to her back, not as bad as
Mike's. Evacuated to Sydney.
By the way when I was in Bali a lot of media
wanted to talk to me, do a story and all that kind of thing, I gave
them the bypass. But you will be able to read about it in the next
Army Newspaper - looks like my cheesy pic and story will be in the
So don't worry I've got 8 lives left! Stay in
touch, take it easy, and like I say cheers and beers (as long as
they are not that cheap German crap from Paddy's in Bali)