Peacebus Wrecked and Compensated!
Peacebus was on its mission to the NSW Parliament to bear witness for the endangered species of NSW during Endangered Species Week when hit from behind by a semi trailer on the Pacific Highway at 2.30 am Monday 2 September 2002.
Refuge at Ric's
On board was Graeme Dunstan, Paul Tollan, Jennifer dog and the critter costumes.
Here is Graeme's account:
A sudden awakening, rough tumbled from the bunk in which i slept as my co-driver, Paul Tollan, trundled Peacebus cautiously through the night.
Jennifer dog and I scrambled to get upright. My first thought was that Paul had driven off the road. "Paul, what have you done?" I called. How shameful to come to consciousness blaming.
I had gone to sleep listening to the noise of worn wheel bearings and thinking, 'Here is a major job coming up'. Now I became aware of different sounds and a different movement. Silent now the bearings and the engine. Peacebus was on its side and we were sliding along.
Paul screamed back, hysterical: "i don't know what the fuck is going on." He told me later that he had been thrown out of the driver's seat and had his face against the passenger side window, where under the glass, the mirror frame showered sparks as it ground along the asphalt. The sudden transformation from watching the night road in the headlights to having a blazing inferno in his face had been a somewhat confusing.
I realised the slide was beyond any control. The tectonic plates of my life were shifting and all that seemed solid was now fluid. There was nought to do but go it, surf it. In the instant of that surrender the slide slowed and ceased.
With Peacebus on its passenger side, the only exit was the driver's door which I lifted open, clambered through and pulled Paul out after me. From on top the stricken Peacbus i surveyed the scene.
We were on a mountain range, the Dirty Creek Range I later learned, and the highway was three laned. Peacebus was lying across one of the two northbound lanes. About 15 metres away loomed a huge white Kundle Transport semitrailer, its lights on, its front left corner badly bingled and its tyre flat, stationary in the other northbound lane. The shattered Peacebus trailer was further back in the south bound lane and its load now highway litter and scattered back 40 meters
By the time Paul and i had emerged another semi had stopped and its driver was setting about signalling traffic to stop. He had his wits about him for our danger in that moment was a collision from one or more other vehicles speeding over that range.
The truckie gave me a torch with a weak battery and told me to walk north and signal on coming traffic. But as i walked through the wreckage I became distracted. The trailer's load of lanterns had been shredded, the china cups for the Cannabis Cafe we had planned to set up in The Domain were in fragments and my paints and silk screening inks were splattered over the road.
Dazed I began picking through the bits and pieces and collecting the scattered power tools. When I wandered back to Peacebus, two trucks had stopped and the combined hazard lights were effectively stopping the traffic.
On its side with its dusty undercarrage facing the centre of the road and exposed in the headlights of the crippled semi, Peacebus looked like a capsized beetle and anonymous. Its colours were in shadow, it's flambouyance obscured.
Jennifer dog was still inside illuminated behind the window screen by the truck headlights. She was looking for me, alert, her ears up, her tail wagging.
Petrol was dripping from Peacebus and some decisions had to be made about rescue. I climbed back inside. HEMP Embassy postcards which I had forgotten i was carrying, were strewn about inside. Badly designed postcards, so ugly i had never offered them for sale or as gifts and now I seemed to be wading in them. The thought arose that they were like calling cards left on the body of a murder victim.
First I passed out my journals and my Mac iBook. Then I went back for 50 kg Jennifer, musing about my priorities. I lifted her so that Paul could reach her forelegs, then with me pushing and Paul pulling we heaved her through the driver's door window and lowered her to the highway. The highway scene of throbbing diesel engines and flashing lights was too much for dear Jennifer, and she went off and hid in the bush for an hour.
Turned out that Peacebus was not as anonymous as i thought. The first towie to arrive approached me saying: "That bus comes from Nimbin. Do you know 'Chicken' George?" Well of course i know 'Chicken' George, he being the same as the one who serves as tourist guide and raconteur for the Nimbin HEMP Embassy, the bantam Plantem who had been the 65 year old cover boy of the Good Weekend colour supplement story on the 2002 Mardi Grass.
I learned that Ric and George are mates who go back years in Woolgoolga and that it had been Ric who had answered the call for help when the Cannabus broke down on the way to the 1999 NSW Drug Summit. Peacebus in its direst hour had found a friend.
Because of the leaking petrol, the towies would not attempt to right Peacebus without the presence of firemen. The local volunteer fire brigade was called from their beds and meanwhile effort was directed to getting the semi moved and the highway clear. Another prime mover came to take the load (20 tonnes of nursery products) and a tow truck dragged the the crippled prime mover away its brakes still locked on.
Two and half hours passed before the truck was moved and the way was clear for Ric to attach a cable to Peacebus' rear spring and winch it over. All the while petrol dripped and i sat by willing that no spark or careless cigarette would ignite it. My job seemed to be to keep things cool in the face of the fears being beaten up by passing panic merchants who had too many American movie car crashes images whizzing around in their heads and were saying things like "Stand clear, she is going to blow!"
The running gear of Peacebus looked undamaged and i was confident, to the point of being deluded with wishful thinking, that once righted it would be driveable. But once righted i could see the distortion of the body and knew the damage was deep and possibily structural.
The truck driver told the attending policed officer he had not seen Peacebus and the implication was that Peacebus had been travelling without lights. I remember thinking of the dangers of loose petrol and electrical sparks and turning the lights and the ignition off as i clambered out.
Paul told the police officer that he had seen the lights of the approaching truck in the rear vision mirror as Peacebus toiled up hill beside the double line at about 70 kph. The semi was hammering over the range at least 100 kph. Probably more.
Piecing together the stories of the drivers and the marks on the vehicles and on the road, the semi had hit the trailer on the right side, bending and breaking off the tow bar, driving the trailer chassis under Peacebus and the box top into its rear. The impact flipped Peacebus on its side and cut the semi's hydaulics so locking on its brakes. The semi had skidded along, pushing Peacebus before it. From the point of impact to where Peacebus came to rest, 70 metres. Uphill!
Paul and i were bruised, shaken and in shock. Lucky to be alive, everyone agreed. Lucky no oncoming traffic. Lucky or protected? Either way we are grateful.
Ric took charge of Peacebus interests and towed it to his yard in Woolgoolga, the former used car sales yard where our mutual friend 'Chicken' George formerly hadworked. Ric offered Woolgoolga Tyre and Auto Centre office facilities and the use of his phone.
My first priority was to draft a media release. At dawn I sat at my iBook, Jewel of the File, and put out the distress call.
Then Paul and I set about cleaning up the wreckage inside Peacebus so that we might cook and feed ourselves.
Our knocks then began to reveal themselves as pain. Paul showed me a red mark about 150 mm by 75 mm where the seat frame had impacted on his hip and left buttock. I had no marks but became aware of soreness on my crown, in my back between spine and right scapula and on my right kneecap. My right arm became too weak to lift above my head or use tools.
The next day we set about improving our camp in Ric's yard, mounting the salvaged murals again, flying our flag, lighting a fire in our brazier for evening warmth and settling in for an enforced holiday at beachside Woolgoolga. Soon so comfortable that Paul wanted to ring his wife and daughter and invite them to join the holiday.
Lots of sympathy calls and emails began coming in. Media calls too.
Passing through Nimbin the previous Friday i had been shouted at and spat upon by one who had assumed the Peacebus critter mission was calculated saboutage to his coincidental medicinal cannabis mission to the NSW Parliment. "Critters and cripples in a scramble for media pathos" I had remarked ironically when i realised the coincidence and emailed the notification.
But my irony and my mention of him and his project on this website, a bit of helpful publicity i had thought, had sent my erstwhile friend ballistic with anger, hatred and vengeance. A veritable Greek chorous of badmouthing of me and my Peacebus efforts was in performance as i departed. The first email opened after the collision was another serving of that poison.
But now as the word of the Peacebus travail went out, many Nimbin friends were expressing their love and concern. How quickly turn the tides of emotions. How fragile we are. How suddenly death and trauma can come.
PEACEBUS NEWS 8 am Monday 2 September 2002
Peacebus laid up. Critters stranded
Peacebus went for a slide along the Pacific Highway at 2.30 am this morning and Koala, Spotted Tail Quoll, Yellow Bellied Glider and Masked Owl, are stranded in Woolgoolga.
Peacebus, was hit from behind by a semi trailer, flipped on its side and sent skidding as it was tootling down the Pacific highway on its way taking the critters to the NSW Parliament for Endangered Species Week.
Crew and critters were unhurt but Peacebus was more than slightly modified. Its rear end was stove in open, and now it rests in a towing yard at Woolgoolga, sag arsed and pathetic.
The trailer behind Peacebus was flattened. Fans of Molly and Jolly sheep will be pleased to hear they were agisting in Lismore at the time. But the trailer load of lanterns shredded and the spilled paints and dyes made a colourful mess.
The driver of the semi told police he didn't notice Peacebus.
Mr Dunstan who was sleeping in the back at the time of the impact, and who makes getting Peacebusnoticed an art form, was incredulous.
"The next incarnation of Peacebus will, when on the road at night, light up like the Lismore Lantern Festival", Mr Dunstan promises.
Meanwhile the critters who were on their to Sydney in search of friends and sustainable habitat, need friends to get them on the road again.
Letter to the Byron Shire Echo, 6 September 2002
Graeme Dunstan 0412 609 373
Peacebus wrecked in Woolgoolga
The Peacebus Critter Mission blessing which took place outside the Byron Surf Club after the screening of David Bradbury's new docu last Sunday night, seems not to have pleased the gods of safe journeys.
So it goes.
Peacebus was bearing a new mural which proclaimed "Save the Old Growth Forests" when it was from behind hit by a semi trailer carrying a 20 tonnes load of nursery products at 2.30 am Monday 2 September on the Pacific Highway at Half Way Creek, south of Grafton.
Peacebus was on its way to the NSW Parliament for Endangered Species Week. The impact tipped Peacebus on its side and sent it sliding down the road.
The crew were shaken up but neither they nor the critter costumes on board suffered damage. Peacebus however has been assessed as being beyond repair.
I am writing this from the refuge of Ric's Mechanical Repairs in Woolgoolga. Ric was the first towie on the scene and he knew about Peacebus from the Nimbin Mardi Grass. Another friend of Peacebus appearing at the right time and in the right place, Ric has allowed me to camp in his yard beside the scraped, bent and buckled Peacebus while compensation is sorted out.
The beach an easy walk away and all Peacebus busyness aborted, I surrender to rest and recreation.
The occupational hazard of political action is over commitment. Each action for justice reveals the need for a least another. Difficult to say no when you appreciate how thin on the ground are those who are willing and able to step apart from the mass media thrall to act and be visible for peace in this time of war, for justice in this time tyranny and for the Earth in this time of industrial resource piracy.
Thin on the ground like gemstones and each of them is a living treasure. Future makers.
Peacebus is more than a bus, of course. It is big spirit and it will roll again. But at this time I don't know how, and don't know when.
What epitaph for this episode of Peacebus? Based the feedback so many friends of Peacebus gave me, it might be: "It got noticed and inspired courage."
Thanks to all those who rang offering condolences, deep gratitude to all the friends who have helped along the way.
Peacebus's claim for compensation from Kundle Transport and its insurers, Zurich Australia Insurance, was negotiated and settled amiciably and without the resort to lawyers.
The correspondence is posted below.
4 September 2002
Mr Neil Walshaw
Manager, Kundle Transport
10 Mahogany Cres
Reparations for damage done to Peacebus
At 2.30 am Monday 2 September last, a Kundle Transport semi trailer (registration number 300 FYM), which was travelling south along the Pacific Highway and being driven by Dean Russell of 25 Marbee Street Wingham, collided with Peacebus, a 1976 Toyota Coaster (registration number UMQ 592) and its box trailer (Australian Trailers P/L model 6x4SA registration number N93 038) at Halfway Creek between Grafton and Coffs Harbour. Peacebus was also travelling south.
The impact crushed the box trailer, sent Peacebus skidding down the road on its side for 20 metres and left your semi crumpled in the left front and brake-locked in the middle of the highway.
Apart from some knocks and bruises the Peacebus crew, Graeme Dunstan (the registered owner), Paul Tollan (driver at the time) and Jennifer (Maremma dog) suffered no serious injuries. Both vehicles were damaged and, while your truck was towed to Brisbane for repairs, Peacebus was towed to Ric's Mechanical Repairs at 33 River Street Woolgoolga (02 6654 1261).
The trailer is beyond repair. The rear of Peacebus has been stove in, the towbar ripped off and the body distorted. Both Ric of Ric's Mechanical Repairs and Neil Curral, proprietor of Woolgoolga Smash Repairs of 47 River Street Woolgoolga (02 6654 1922) have judged Peacebus to be a write off.
I now turn to you to negotiate compensation.
Please understand Peacebus is more than a bus. It is also a website (www.peacebus.com) and famous for its political actions for peace, justice and the Earth
During 2000, in protest at the rising prison population caused by the US Drug War and the globalisation of corrections, Peacebus undertook the First Drug War Freedom Ride and went and burned cardboard replicas of jails outside all the major jails of NSW. Peacebus was a significant presence at the s11 Melbourne World Economic Forum blockade of September 2000, and at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Coolum in March this year. On 4 July last, Peacebus in another Drug War protest celebrated Independence from America Day by burning a cardboard effigy of the US president outside the Byron courthouse.
When hit from behind by your truck last Monday Peacebus was on is way to the NSW Parliament and Endangered Species Week bearing flags, banners and critter costumes.
I give you that background so that you might understand that Peacebus has many friends. In fact it is sustained by the goodwill of friends who donate monies and provide services freely or at discount.
Peacebus is uninsured and the responsibility for getting it back on the road again rests with me. And you.
Paul Tollan, the driver Peacebus told the attending police officer, Senior Constable David Brooker of the Woolgoolga Police Station, that he had seen the lights of the approaching truck from behind as Peacebus, keeping to the left, toiled up the hill at about 70 kph. Your driver told Cnst Brooker that he hadn't seen Peacebus.
True the waning moon was setting and the road was dark but your driver had lights on high beam. How come he missed seeing Peacebus, the trailer and its lights, head and tail? It's an elephant sized mass of a bus with two white horn speakers on top.
Clearly there is negligence here on behalf of your driver. But I don't want to walk down that road. I want to talk to you as one honest man to another and sort out a fair compensation deal that can be part of your insurance claim.
Please understand that since Peacebus is regularly involved in actions with police, needs be it is kept roadworthy and capable of missions that take it 4,000 km at a time. Twelve months ago Peacebus was re-engineered with a reconditioned Holden 186 engine at a cost of about $6,000. In the past month it has had an overhaul on the front brakes and its king pins replaced at a cost of $900. (You would know all about the costs on maintaining big vehicles.)
Fair compensation for me would be:
the replacement of the box trailer which was less than two year's old with it's customised equivalent. A 6x4 trailer with tradesman's top new costs $1,800 plus the modifications needed for it to carry livestock (fitting of windows, a floor rack, ventilation and suspension at a cost of $500). Say a total of $2,300
the replacement of Peacebus with an equivalent bus, which is both roadworthy and has a recently reconditioned engine, the cost of which Ric estimates would be about $8,000
the cost of fitting out Peacebus and repainting its murals. Say $2,000
recompense for the towing costs of both trailer and Peacebus quoted at $1,254.55
As a working figure I am asking for $13,750 in compensation. Not a lot in the world of the big rigs, but a mountain of cash for a volunteer, fund raising organization like Peacebus.
I will follow up this fax with a phone call. You can ring me on 0412 609 373. Please tell me if you have any objections by my posting our correspondence to http://www.peacebus.com/ where the friends and supporters of Peacebus are following the saga of its death and rebirth.
For peace! For justice! For the Earth!
The highway whisper was that the Taree based, Kundle Transport, was in financial trouble. Indeed an administrator had been appointed but the receptionist assured Graeme that the company was trading out of its difficulties. But it was two full days and before Kundle manager, Neil Walshaw, found time to return Peacebus calls.
The telephone call of 5 September after the above letter was faxed however revealed Neil Walshaw to be cooperative in a reserved sort of way and carrying his stress with quiet fortitude. Here was an honest man trying to hold together a local business that sustained the families of his employees.
"How are you feeling?" Graeme asked. "It doesn't matter what I feel," replied Neil for it was just more business for him to do. Graeme protested: "Of course your feelings are important!" How could there be a satisfactory settlement if the parties didn't feel okay at the end of negotiations?
On advice from Neil, Graeme rang his insurance brokers, Manning Insurance (02 6552 4100) and spoke to Pam who was cheery and affirming. Yes, the Peacebus claim would be carried forward and what's more she advised, the loss and damage of trailer's load could also be claimed.
10 September 2002
Reparations for damage done to Peacebus Load
Manning Insurance Brokers
I was so heartened by your response to my telephone call last Friday, and to the earlier response of Kundle Transport's, Neil Walshaw, in regard to my request for compensation for the damage done when Kundle Transport semi trailer (registration number 300 FYM) collided with Peacebus and its trailer Monday 2 September last. No obstacles, I understood you both to have said.
Good to do business with good people. As I said in my fax to Neil, it is friendship that sustains Peacebus in its adventures and it is friendship that is its ultimate mission. I reckon you and Neil now to be entwined in the strange and wonderful, fateful and serendipitous network of friends who make up the imaginal body of Peacebus. Welcome aboard.
You told me I would also be compensated for loss and damage caused by the collision to the trailer's load. I hadn't included those items in my letter of 4 September.
The load comprised 40 bamboo and paper lanterns, a cardboard carton of silk-screening inks, a milk crate acrylic gloss paints (these two being the banner and mural painting supplies), another milk crate of power tools, the dog's food and water, and other assorted items.
The impact shredded all the lanterns and spilled all the paints (having been used, their lids were not tightly secured) and broke all the plastic jars of inks. The shredded lanterns littered the highway and the paints and inks splattered a rainbow coloured ÔBlue Poles', there to be seen on the highway still. (But is it art? Should it be excised from the asphalt and reserved for some future museum dedicated to Peacebus art?)
I saw it yesterday when I went back to inspect the site and look for lost gear. Do you know that from the point impact (marked by a gouge in the asphalt left by the steel of the trailer as it was crushed under wheel) to where Peacebus came to rest (marked by the stains left on the asphalt of by leaking petrol) I paced 70 metres! Surely this is some kind of world record amongst 2 tonne bus side slide slaloms.
The impact also scattered the power tools and splattered them with paint. All were damaged, some were lost in the night.
Fair compensation for the damage and loss caused to the load on the trailer for me would be:
the compensation for the cost of the lanterns. One of my means is lantern making and the lanterns on board had been made by me. I sometimes bill myself as a master lantern maker and organise mass lantern spectacles for festivals and events. When I get paid to do this, as I will be by the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery for the Eureka Dawn Walk this December, I charge about $1000 a week and make about 200 lanterns a week. Fair compensation would be $5 per lantern, or $200
the replacement of power tools damaged and lost. These include:
a power drill (replacement by a Makita model 6402 quoted at $370)
a 10 mm cordless drill (replacement by a Makita model 6227D quoted at $260)
a 9" circular saw (replacement by a Makita model 5900B quoted at $350)
an angle grinder (replacement by a Ryobi model G-1251A quoted at $89)
Total replacement cost of lost and damaged power tools $1069
the replacement of the paints and inks;
7 x 1 litre cans of acrylic gloss paint (one each of red,
yellow, blue, green, brown, black, white) at $33, a total of $231
11 x 500 ml jars of Permaset silk screening inks (one each of bright red, magenta,
bright yellow, ochre yellow, ultra marine blue, bright blue, green, brown, black, white and one of reducer) at $20 per jar, a total of $220
This adds to a total compensation claim on the load of $1,720
The working figure of compensation I am asking is thus increased to $15,470.
Please confirm when you expect the insurance assessor to make his inspection.
This letter and all posting other correspondence about Peacebus and its highway meeting with Kundle Transport will be posted to http://www.peacebus.com/ where the friends and supporters of Peacebus are following the saga of its death and rebirth.
For peace! For justice! For the Earth!
Aldo Gortan (02 9995 3213) is a good man whose fate it is to sit at a desk and computer all day and process motor vehicle insurance claims. He had checked out the Peacebus.com website and wistfully told me how lucky i was to live such a passionate life.
He had no objections to the Peacebus claim and has offered to release immediately, based on the recommendations of his company's assessor, $5,800 for Peacebus, and $1,500 for the trailer.
Here was Graeme's response.
7 October 2002
Mr Aldo Gortan
Commercial Motor Claims Officer
Locked Bag 2138
North Sydney 2059
Fax 02 9995 3277
Response to compensation offer
Thank you for the compensation offers made in your letters of 24 September (your references 85-2634929JA7 and 85-268429JA7).
In my fax of 4 September to Kundle Transport P/L I said that for me fair compensation for the demolished box trailer would be replacement with itŐs customised equivalent, which I estimated at cost of $2,300. You have offered to release $800 less, namely $1,500.
In the same fax I said that for me fair compensation for the wreck of the Peacebus would be replacement with an equivalent bus, which is both roadworthy and has a recently reconditioned engine, a cost I estimated at $8,000. You have offered to release $2,200 less namely $5,800.
I also asked $2,000 for fitting out and muralising the replacement bus. You have made no offer in response to this.
In regard to compensation for the damage and loss of to the load the trailer was carrying, I estimated, in my fax to Manning Insurance Brokers dated 10 September, that $1,720 would be fair. No offer has yet been made in response to this claim.
I understand that the releases for the trailer and bus reflect the recommendations of Quantum Assessors and that no recommendation was made in regard to the trailer load because there was no load to inspect when your assessor went to inspect the wrecks.
Aldo, I neither want to act nor appear difficult, dishonest or greedy, but I do not find your offer fair. I do not believe I can replace the customised trailer and the bus for those amounts. I fear that not only am I suffering the trauma of the collision and the loss of bus, trailer and load because of the Kundle Transport collision, I am also being asked to subsidise their replacement and fit out.
How to resolve the conflict without involving ill will, lawyers and more costs?
May I suggest that we review the assessorŐs recommendations? How about I meet with your assessor and that together we do a local market search of replacement options and see what the actual cost would be. We might also get a couple of quotes for fitting out and painting a bus.
In regard to estimating the cost of compensating for the loss and damage of the trailerŐs load, I am not sure what evidence you need and how that need may be satisfied. The paints and dyes were spilled and the lanterns shredded, and except for the paint on the highway, all disposed as garbage now. I do however have the damaged tools and I could bring those to your assessor at the same time.
What do you reckon?
I trust the long weekend break has given you rest and ease. I am just back from time up north with my yoga teacher working on my back and feeling much less sore.
For peace! For justice! For the Earth!
Aldo's response was to have his assessor, Max Pickworth of Quantum Assessors, (02 6584 3177 ) call me to arrange a meeting. Max is based in Port Macquarie and he is a busy man, travelling often to Sydney and up and down the Pacific Highway reporting on wrecks such as ours.
It took a week to find a mutual convenient time but after many calls he sat down with me in the shade of a tree near the loading ramp for the ferry over the Hastings River at Port Macquarie on Friday 18 October.
Max had a handsome open face, a direct gaze, a neat ginger moustache, a ready smile and a no bullshit manner. My first thought was that he would make a good character actor for an Australian movie. Playing General Monash maybe.
He told be he had been worked the automobile business for 25 years or more as a mechanic, panel beater, salesman and now as an insurance assessor. He knew the game better than i would ever know it and i was happy to accept his advice.
I explained what I wanted recognised as lost and valuable. He agreed he had not taken into account the costs of customising the trailer for carrying Molly and Jolly and conceded the extra i was asking. There were two other sums to be negoitated, the extra for the fit out and paint job on the bus ( i showed him photos of Peacebus in its glory) and the compensation for the load.
There is advantage in negotiations to get the other party to make the first offer. We took turns, one offering while the other attempte to mind read and guess the offer. We got it right time both times. Max gave me his hand, the deal was done.
$8,000 all up for the bus less $200 for its salvage value, $2,000 for the trailer, and $1,200 for the trailer load. A total of $11,000. There and then Max rang Aldo and confirmed it.
Everyone happy. Woolgoolga Ric described the deal as like being kissed on the dick by a fairy.