They said what? and withdrawing help (Blog 3 of 7)


the ironback trees lies on the ground at cedar college northgate
The BFT that fell on me (Big Falling Tree)

A tree fell on me at Cedar College Northgate on September 11, 2009.

Seven blogs contain details of the accident (this is the third blog)

  1. Cedar College Northgate – sports day and tree
  2. Spinal Cord Injury and no visits from the school
  3. They said what? and withdrawing help
  4. Safework SA and victim impact statements
  5. Cedar College pleads guilty
  6. Relationship breakdown and suing Cedar College
  7. Forgiving Cedar College and the future

Tree Number 21.

the iron bark tree branch still lying on the ground
Fallen tree number 21

Tree number 21 almost killed me, and although the school mentioned tree maintenance had been performed, reports from two arborists confirmed the maintenance hadn’t been done. In April 2005, Arbortech Tree Services Pty Ltd suggested the tree was in good health. However, the structure could have been better, and high priority was placed on pruning at $690. In 2007, Tree Environs Pty Ltd recommended the removal of tree 21 at the cost of  $1,950 within eighteen months. This time frame finished three months before Tree 21 fell on me.

Understandably, I was angry, as the school ignored the advice of the 2nd arborist and made a decision to keep the tree.

The TV interview.

The principal mentioned the following in a TV interview (view it in the first blog).

‘We’ve had a tree surgeon on the property who’s examined all the trees and instructed us which branches need to be removed, we’ve done that.  This tree, in particular, wasn’t on that list, so we assumed it would be safe and sometimes you just can’t tell what’s inside a tree.’

‘The children have all gone home and we’ve got the situation under control, We’ve already had the trees assessed, we’ve had everything in place for the safety of the kids . . . unfortunately, it’s just one of those things, we don’t know when a tree is going to fall.’

The school protected their integrity rather than telling the truth about Tree 21. Many parents and students were watching the TV news reports, both current and future, and these people needed reassurance about tree safety. Rather than the truth, they got a version that protects the school’s financial future.

‘How to handle trauma’ by Cedar College

I found a Cedar College newsletter dated a few weeks after my accident in which the author wrote about ‘How to handle trauma’.

‘When bad things happen, it can take a while to get over the pain and feel safe again’

newsletter of cedar college with main front page article of how to handle trauma. No mention that the fallen tree didn't have the required maintenance done on it
It happened unexpectedly, and you were unprepared for it. BS

Eighteen months had passed since the accident, and the pain in my body was still present, not that anyone from the school had any first-hand knowledge of this. On the day of the accident, school leaders would have been stressed, worried, and confused, particularly when giving TV interviews, and a few weeks had passed to gather their thoughts for the newsletter. They could tell the truth about the lack of tree maintenance rather than blaming God.

‘A stressful event is most likely to be traumatic if

        it happened unexpectedly

        you felt powerless to prevent it.’

No, they didn’t! How could the school suggest the event was unexpected? They had the arborist reports, the weather report about the wind gusts for the day was available the morning of the accident, and the months leading up to September were hotter and drier than usual.

The newsletter finished with the following…

‘We continue to pray for the recovery of John Duthie and (the other people) who were injured on the day.  These holidays do something extraordinary, take your kids out and have loads of fun’.

Reading the first sentence was pleasing. However, I felt the second sentence was insensitive towards my family, as we were not having fun during the holidays

Cedar College changed its mind about helping me.

cedar goes ahead with a huge building program, but I received no financial help from the school due to the fallen treeBy July 2011, the disability-related expenses were increasing, all coming out of my pocket. Good news arrived when my legal team were informed that the school were prepared to reimburse me for ongoing expenses. I felt better about Cedar College; some Christian love and care started showing through. 

I provided receipts and waited for the cheque(s) to arrive.  Additional receipts were given, and I waited.  My legal team asked Cedar College and the school changed their mind but didn’t bother to let us know. To withdraw an offer was worse than not proposing to pay in the first place.

I would run out of funds a few years before the public liability settled. The more financial duress I was under, the more likely I would accept a lower settlement.

Cedar continued their costly building program – admin building, performing arts centre and sports centre. It didn’t sit well with me that Cedar College would spend up to ten million dollars on themselves while providing me with nothing for the significant expenses that they had caused.

Click here for the next blog.

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