Kempsey Railway Crossing Memorial GrovePrint Page Print this page


Photographs supplied by Sandra Brown / John Huth

A grove of trees commemorates six students who were killed in a bus and train collision in December 1968. A plaque has been placed on a boulder in the centre of the grove while a smaller plaque is located near the shrubbery. 

SYDNEY, Monday. — Four schoolgirls died in a level-crossing smash south of Kempsey late today. Dead are Margaret Lynne Barnett, 12, of Belgrave Falls, Rosemary Dawn Lawrence, 14, of Kalateena, Rhonda Joy Serle, 13, of Sherwood, and Sharon Leonie Perrott, 14, of Middleton Street, Kempsey. Judith Ann Coleman, 14, also of Middleton Street, is in a critical condition. In addition to the dead, 17 people were injured, including 15 children. The accident occurred at the Middleton Street railway crossing about 4pm. The Daylight Express ploughed into the rear of a bus of Cavanagh's Bus Service and spun it of the track on to an embankment beside the line. The bus was taking children home from Kempsey High School and the Kempsey Convent School. An 18-year-old youth will appear in Kempsey Court tomorrow on four charges of manslaughter.
The Canberra Times, 10th December 1968. 

SYDNEY. Tuesday. — An 18-year-old railway gatekeeper was cleared today of charges arising from the level-crossing smash near Kempsey late last year in which six school children died. Desmond Stewart, of Valla Beach, near Nambucca Heads, was cleared of six charges of manslaughter and eight charges of causing grievous bodily harm. The hearing ended in Kempsey Court of Petty Sessions today. In dismissing the charges, Mr J. Featherstone, SM, said insufficient evidence had been brought forward. He said he held Stewart in some ways responsible for the accident but his actions did not amount to criminal negligence. Mr Featherstone said the degree of Stewart's negligence in failing to close the crossing gates was made no greater by the number of people involved in the accident. The defendant had had no means of knowing of the approach of the train apart from his running sheet and by watching and listening for it. 

The train driver, Grantley Small, of South Grafton, said in evidence he could not see the level crossing which was obscured by an embankment, but his fireman had seen the bus crossing the line, He said he had immediately applied the emergency brakes and his fireman had sounded the siren. The train had been about 10 feet from the crossing when he had first seen the bus which was then about half-way across the line.
The Canberra Times (ACT), 16 April 1969. 


Address:Middleton Street, Memorial Grove, South Kempsey Park, South Kempsey, 2440
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -31.094644
Long: 152.834507
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Trees
Monument Theme:Disaster
Sub-Theme:Land Transport
Actual Event Start Date:09-December-1968
Actual Event End Date:09-December-1968


Front Inscription

Kempsey Shire Council
Memorial Grove

Plaque :

This Memorial Grove is dedicated to the memory of those students who lost their lives as a result of the bus - train accident at the Middleton Street Level Crossing on the 9th December, 1968.

Margaret Barnett, Graeme Burley, 
Rosemary Lawrence, Sharon Perrott, 
Trixie Ramsy & Rhonda Searle.


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