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Bridgetown Tragedy Print Page Print this page

29-January-2017
29-January-2017

Photographs supplied by Bryan Hardy
A monument commemorates the three children and an adult electrocuted in Bridgetown in 1954. A memorial bench was also unveiled outside the IGA in Hampton Street. 

A fallen power line caused the death of the four victims in March 1954.  There were five severely injured children and two injured adults. Doctors, nurses, firemen and about 200 people from Bridgetown came together in a mammoth attempt to save the children. 

Three boys and a man are already dead, and another boy critically ill after a mass electrocution at Bridgetown, 180 miles south of Perth yesterday. Those dead are Mr. Jack Houston (40, married), with two children, a State Electricity Commission employee, Graham Michael Whiegell (8), and his brother Kenneth Leslie Whiegell (11), who died later in the Bridgetown Hospital in an iron lung, and Adrian Lockley, aged 13. Jack Houston, jun. (8) is critically ill in the Bridgetown Hospital. Discharged from the hospital with burns are Clifford Lockley (3) and his brotlher Allan Lockley (5). Two other children ran home suffering from burns to body and legs. Their condition is satisfactory. Two pet dogs playing with the children were killed instantly.

The tragedy struck when the children, playing in a paddock along a road, ran into a death trap. caused by a fallen electric power wire, which had fouled a small square of wire fences and activated a nearby creek. The children had waded into the creek and were immediately shocked by the electrical current. Running out, screaming. they rushed into the live wire fences and were nearly all caught by the power. Their screams brought Mr. Jack Houston. sen., rushing to the scene. He attempted to pull the children away from the fence but was shocked himself and fell back. His wife, Mrs. Vivienne Joyce Houston (35) also rushed to the fence and received a shock. She was taken to the Bridgetown Hospital where her condition is satisfactory Mr. Dick Franks, of Bridgetown, received a shock as he prised two children off the fence with a green tree limb.

Doctors, nurses, ambulance bearers, and volunteers worked for more than six hours in an effort to save the victims. An iron lung was rushed from Bunbury, 62 miles away in 49 minutes, and was soon in operation. Local nurses administered oxygen.
Queensland Times (Ipswich) (Qld.) 15 March 1954.  

Location

Address:Gifford Road & Forrest Street, Bridgetown, 6255
State:WA
Area:AUS
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -33.955879
Long: 116.147577
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
View Google Map

Details

Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:People
Sub-Theme:Tragedy
Actual Event STart Date:14-March-1954
Actual Event End Date:14-March-1954

Dedication

Actual Monument Dedication Date:Saturday 14th March, 2015
Front Inscription

In loving memory of three young boys who died in an accident and the father who gave his life trying to save them on Sunday 14th March, 1954

The children who died were : -

Graeme Michael Weighell - 7
Kenneth Leslie Weighell - 12
Adrian George Lockley - 12

Jack Houston, 35, perished as he tried to save the boys.

Severely injured were :-

Jon Houston - 8
Clifford Lockley - 3
Allan Lockley -5
Hellen Billington - 9
Peter Billington - 7

Vivienne Houston and Dick Franks were also injured as they tried to help the children.

Doctors, nurses, firemen and about 200 people from Bridgetown came together in a mammoth attempt of save the children on the darkest day in the history of Bridgetown.

The full story if the tragedy can be seen at The Cidery Bridgetown and the Bridgetown Library

The Sacred Site

Reposed in their solitude, by wooded stand befall
Honoured by the presence sculptured words recall
Where voices softly whisper like leaves upon the breeze
And memory paints the picture, the moment which to seize
They were friend of mine, in boyhood ventures gay
Silence in their youth, no more the game to play
Joh Houston 1989
 

 

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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