Another nightmare on Bourke Street sparks an eerie sense of deja vu
Save articles for later
Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.
We are at a bar, drinking martinis and thanking our lucky stars we are not at the footy (it’s freezing, we exclaim) when I see my friend’s face cloud over.
She pushes her phone wordlessly across the table. “INCIDENT ALERT,” Victoria Police has posted on Facebook. Bourke Street is closed from Swanston Street through to Exhibition Street.
The crash scene on Friday night.Credit: Nine
“There is no ongoing threat to the community,” the carefully worded statement says. My friend mouths: “It looks serious.”
My face prickles and I am haunted by an eerie sensation of deja vu. Another nightmare on Bourke Street, the third in six years.
Why is it always Bourke Street, I wonder.
As I doom-scroll through updates – one person was killed and five others injured when a car hit pedestrians at a tram stop and then crashed into two cars – I am taken back to that Friday lunchtime, in January 2017 when a stolen car slammed into pedestrians. I’ll never forget the words of witness Sharn Baylis: “People were literally just flying like skittles.” In 2017, six people were killed and 27 injured.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said it was too early to say whether Friday night’s incident was reckless or deliberate.
“Obviously this will bring up memories and trauma for all those who were involved in the 2017 incident in Bourke Street, and our hearts go out to them,” Patton said. “I just provide the assurance that we will have those visible patrols and I would urge them if they do need assistance to seek that assistance.”
At the end of 2017, a car mowed down pedestrians outside Flinders Street Station, knocking over at least 16 people, including a man who later died.
The following year, a man motivated by his adherence to Islamic State tried to turn his ute into a car bomb in Bourke Street. He fatally stabbed Sisto Malaspina, the much-loved co-owner of Melbourne institution Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar.
No wonder Melburnians are developing a collective angst when it comes to deadly incidents in the CBD.
“When I heard the news on Friday I thought, ‘Surely this can’t be happening again’, and I think a lot of people will be feeling the same way,” Australian Psychological Society chief executive Dr Zena Burgess said.
“Of course this incident would bring back memories of previous Bourke Street tragedies and can add to the collective angst many in the community are already experiencing.”
Burgess said people who witnessed events unfold, along with first responders, need to have their mental health supported.
There has been soul-searching in the aftermath of past tragedies. Police have been authorised to shoot to kill drivers who pose a risk to the public. Melbourne is more fortified: hundreds of steel bollards have been installed in high-profile pedestrian sites, including Bourke Street Mall, as part of a $52.5 million security upgrade.
It’s too soon to know whether there will be a similar outcome from Friday’s incident.
Premier Daniel Andrews said he believed nothing more could have been done to prevent an incident like this from an infrastructure point of view, a judgment he said was shared by experts.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate or particularly useful to use this terrible incident as an argument for or against the way in which the CBD works,” he said.
“There’s not an engineering treatment that we are advised about, or aware of, or I think practical, that would change this outcome. Of course, a person has lost their life here and the coroner will have a look at this.”
Melburnians have been uncomfortably reminded that we can be jolted out of our idyll at any time, even when we are cosily talking about the footy.
The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.
Most Viewed in National
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article