1997 Thredbo landslide

The Thredbo landslide was a catastrophic landslide that occurred at the village and ski resort of Thredbo, New South Wales, Australia, on 30 July 1997. Two ski lodges were destroyed and a total of 18 died.

1997 Thredbo landslide
Thredbo village and ski resort with Alpine Way road seen running above the lodges (Summer 2008)
DateJuly 30, 1997
Time11:35 pm
LocationThredbo, New South Wales
Coordinates36°30′13″S 148°18′31″E / 36.5036°S 148.3085°ECoordinates: 36°30′13″S 148°18′31″E / 36.5036°S 148.3085°E
CauseHeavy rain, melting snow and a leaking water main.


There were 18 fatalities when the Bimbadeen and Carinya Lodges were destroyed at Thredbo Alpine Village at 11:35 pm on Wednesday, 30 July 1997. About 1,000 tonnes (1,100 tons) of liquefied earth and debris came down the slope.

As the unstable slope above the four-storey Carinya Lodge (owned by the Brindabella Ski Club) slipped downhill, it hit the east wing of the Carinya Ski Lodge, tearing it in two. This initial landslide removed the support for the Alpine Way road which in turn collapsed, shearing the western half of Carinya from its foundations, allowing it to slide downhill and crossing a road before colliding with the Bimbadeen Ski Lodge at high speed, destroying both. Bimbadeen Staff Lodge was then hit, and it, too, collapsed. Witnesses reported hearing "a whoosh of air, a crack and a sound like a freight train rushing down the hill". John Cameron, a member of Brindabella Ski Club, who was alone in Carinya, along with 17 residents in Bimbadeen, lost their lives when the Lodges were destroyed.

At 11:37 pm, New South Wales Fire Brigades Communication Centre at Wollongong received emergency calls from the lodge at Thredbo. The local fire brigades had responded to reports of a 'small explosion' in the village. The first report to come through said that 100 people had been trapped. The only survivor, Stuart Diver.

Police arrived at 12:30 am and evacuated the area. A regional disaster was declared, with Goulburn established as the disaster coordination centre for the region, with Sydney also notified. Medical staff were sent from Cooma to Thredbo, and also from Canberra to Jindabyne, which was a point for triage. Four specialists were flown from St George Hospital in Sydney to Thredbo. By 2:30 am, there were 100 professional services on the scene, and many volunteers such as from the Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA) of New South Wales, the State Emergency Service (SES) of New South Wales and the Australian Red Cross.

Thursday, 31 July

Thredbo landslide
SES volunteers (orange) and firemen (yellow) assist at the Thredbo debris slope 1997

At 7:30 am, a forward medical command post was established, set up in a lodge located 50 metres (164 feet) from the site of the disaster.

Inspector Rory O'Driscoll of the NSW Police arrived at 8:15 am. At 10:00 am, geophysicists who had been flown to the area from Sydney declared that the site was safe enough to begin an excavation of the top layers, but was still very unstable with a now exposed underground stream flowing through the debris at the rate of 6,120 litres per hour. At 10:30 am, a medical team inspected the disaster site. Many of the rescue workers themselves required treatment of minor injuries and the medical team realised they had to be prepared to treat exhaustion and hypothermia among the workers.

The first body was recovered at 4:20 pm. At 6:30 pm, a second specialist medical team arrived from the Royal North Shore Hospital. The State Emergency Service rotated 1350 rescue crew with about 250 on the site at any one time.[1]

The slope of the hillside, which ranged from 20 to 40 degrees and the sub-zero temperatures made rescue efforts difficult. By midnight, 24 hours after the landslide had occurred, just one body had been discovered. During the night, the temperature at Thredbo dropped to -14 °C (7 °F).

Friday, 1 August

On 1 August, one more body was discovered in the early morning, and two more later during the day. A large slab of concrete which had been part of the Bimbadeen carpark made rescue efforts difficult. At 3:00 pm, doctors met the relatives of the missing.

During the day, several environmental issues were identified such as water and sewerage being cut off to the site, and some diesel fuel seeping into Thredbo Creek.

Rescue workers announced on Friday that there was little hope in finding any survivors. They had not completely given up hope, but Assistant Police Commissioner Ken Moroney told reporters; "I think at this stage the chances are quite remote."[2]

Stuart Diver

At 5:37 am on 2 August, digging finished and rescue workers dropped sound equipment into a hole they had been digging, as was the standard procedure. This time, they detected some movement underneath the concrete slab.

Five minutes later, rescue expert fire-fighter Steve Hirst, who used monitoring equipment to confirm the movement, yelled out "Rescue team working overhead, can anyone hear me?" to which a voice called back "I can hear you." When asked if he had sustained any injuries, the voice replied "No, but my feet are bloody cold!"

He was identified as ski instructor Stuart Diver. A pipe was then passed down the gap to provide warmer air which would increase his low body temperature. Another tube was put down which carried fluids from which he could have two sips every 20 minutes.

Hirst explained to the press that Diver said he was uninjured, just extremely cold. Police Superintendent Charlie Sanderson explained to the press the difficulty of extracting Diver because they could not risk the concrete slab falling on top of him.

His position was two metres below the surface, beneath three concrete slabs. He was lying in water, wearing only a pair of underpants. Due to the risk of the overlaying concrete crushing Diver, rescuers began digging a 16 metre long tunnel from the eastern side of the slope. Five hours later, rescuers had removed enough of the rubble for them to be able to touch Diver. Paul Featherstone was the paramedic who kept talking to Diver for 11 hours until he was freed. When the site had to be evacuated each time the rubble shifted, Featherstone would stay below ground to keep Diver talking and distract him.[3]

Diver was pulled from the wreckage later in the evening. His first words were as he breathed the pure mountain air, "That sky's fantastic!" He had lain trapped for 65 hours in a small space between two concrete slabs beside the body of his first wife, Sally,[4] who had died by drowning as a concrete beam had pinned her in a depression that had filled with water overnight.

The rescue effort continued after Diver had been found, now that rescue workers had hope that there would be more survivors. They did not find any, and the last body was recovered on the following Thursday.


In 1998, three terraces with gabions and reinforced fill were constructed on the site and the Alpine Way was rebuilt with upslope retaining walls. The site along with a section of the Alpine Way is now monitored with 25 inclinometers, to detect any slope movement, and 12 piezometers, to keep track of water flow in the soil.[1]

Brindabella Ski Club opened its new lodge on 5 June 2004.

The Coroner's report released on 29 June 2000 said that the landslide was caused by water from heavy rain, melting snow and a leaking water main. The landslide hit an eastern wing of one of the lodges first, which caused the nearby land to collapse onto lodges below.[5] The State Government of New South Wales spent $40 million in out-of-court settlements with 91 businesses and individuals after the incident.

On 3 December 2004, the Supreme Court judgment blamed the leaking water main pipe and the Alpine Way, which was built on a road full of debris, as the cause of the disaster. Soil creep had caused the main to fracture, which had saturated the already unstable slope that supported the road above Carinya.[6]

The Alpine Way had originally been built as a temporary construction access road by the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority during the 1950s to access the Murray-1 and Murray-2 hydroelectric power stations constructed as part of the Snowy Mountains Scheme. Once the power stations were completed, the Authority upgraded the road with fill and planted vegetation on the downhill hillside before transferring ownership to the National Parks and Wildlife Service. No individual government authority had responsibility for maintenance while the National Parks and Wildlife Service's own funding was inadequate for maintenance of park roads "not designed for the purpose to which they were later put." Following the disaster, responsibility for the Alpine Way and Kosciuszko Road was handed to the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA).[1]

A memorial service was held in 2007 to mark the tenth anniversary of the events, which included a flare run down the mountain after sunset.[7]

A fact-based drama, Heroes' Mountain, was released in 2002. Craig McLachlan starred as Stuart Diver, with Tom Long and Anthony Hayes co-starring.

List of victims

The following are names of the victims:[5]

  • Dianne Elizabeth Ainsworth
  • John Anthony Cameron
  • Barry Achim Decker
  • Sally Sophie Diver
  • Dianne Lee Hoffman
  • Werner Jecklin
  • Oskar Waler Luhn
  • Andrew Stuart McArthur
  • Stephen Thomas Moss
  • Wendy Anne O'Donohue
  • Mary Frances Phillips
  • Aino Senbruns
  • Mariam Alice Sodergren
  • Michael Lee Sodergren
  • Steven Urosovic
  • Colin John Warren
  • David Glenn Watson
  • Anthony John Weaver

See also


  1. ^ a b c The Road Collapse of '97. Thredbo Alpine Village. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  2. ^ "Australia landslide toll rises, hopes fading". CNN. 1 August 1997. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  3. ^ "Paul Featherstone". ICMI Speakers Bureau. Retrieved 24 February 2014.
  4. ^ Coletta, Frank; Thackray, Lucy (23 March 2015). "Stuart Diver's heartbreak: Thredbo disaster survivor who lost first wife Sally in avalanche mourns the loss of second wife Rosanna to breast cancer". Daily Mail (Australia). Retrieved 23 March 2015. The disaster killed his then wife Sally and 17 others.
  5. ^ a b Hand, Derrick (29 June 2000). "Report of the inquest into the deaths arising from the Thredbo landslide" (PDF). State of New South Wales. Archived from the original (pdf) on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  6. ^ Wallace, Natasha (3 December 1997). "Thredbo disaster: at last, the facts". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  7. ^ McMahon, Neil (30 July 2007). "Moving tribute to Thredbo dead". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved on 17 August 2009

External links

Alpine Way

The Alpine Way is a 121-kilometre (75 mi) rural road located in the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales, Australia. The road connects Jindabyne in the east to the New South Wales/Victorian border in the west, crossing the Murray River, near Upper Towong. The route does not carry an official shield designation.

Ben Fordham

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Bernard Collaery

Bernard Joseph Edward Collaery (born 12 October 1944) is an Australian barrister, lawyer and former politician. Collaery was a member of the Australian Capital Territory's first Legislative Assembly for the Residents Rally party, from 1989 to 1992. He served as Deputy Chief Minister and Attorney-General from 1989 to 1991 in the Kaine Alliance Government.

Chris Reason

Chris Reason is a senior reporter and presenter for Seven News in Sydney, Australia. He was awarded the Graham Perkin Australian Journalist of the Year Award for his coverage of the Lindt Cafe siege in December 2014.

Diver (surname)

Diver is the surname of:

Alfred Diver (1823–1876), English cricketer

Bridget Diver (died 1915), watch guard in the American Civil War

Colin Diver, president of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, United States

Danny Diver (born 1956), former manager of East Stirlingshire Football Club

Edwin Diver (1861–1924), English cricketer

Joe Diver, Irish Gaelic footballer

Stuart Diver (born 1970), ski instructor, sole survivor of the 1997 Thredbo landslide

William Diver (1921–1995), founder of the Columbia School of Linguistics

Fire and Rescue NSW

Fire and Rescue NSW (previously known as New South Wales Fire Brigades), an agency of the Government of New South Wales, Australia, is responsible for firefighting, rescue and hazmat services in the major cities, metropolitan areas and towns across New South Wales. Fire and Rescue NSW is the forth largest urban fire service in the world, with over 6,800 firefighters serving at 335 fire stations throughout the state, supported by 465 administrative and trades staff and 5,700 community fire unit volunteers. FRNSW are also the busiest fire service in Australia, attending over 124,000 incidents a year.The agency operates under the Fire Brigades Act 1989, with a substantial history dating back well over 100 years to the establishment of the New South Wales Fire Brigades in 1910, and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade prior to that in 1884. The organisation is led by the Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW, currently Paul Baxter QSO, who reports to the Minister for Emergency Services, currently The Hon. David Elliot MP.

Glenn Milne

Glenn Milne is a Canberra journalist and political commentator. He worked for News Limited as a columnist for The Australian newspaper and as a writer for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

He is a former chief political correspondent for the Seven Network where he reported for Seven News and often conducted interviews on Sunday Sunrise. He has also been political editor of The Australian.

He is a former Vice President of the National Press Club in Canberra.

In 1997 Milne won a Walkley award in the "Television News Reporting" category, for his reporting on the 1997 Thredbo landslide.

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List of disasters in Australia by death toll

This is a list of disasters and tragic events in modern Australia sorted by death toll.

List of landslides

This list of landslides is a list of notable landslides and mudflows divided into sections by date and type. This list is very incomplete as there is no central catalogue for landslides, although some for individual countries/areas do exist. Volumes of landslides are recorded in the scientific literature using cubic kilometres (km3) for the largest and millions of cubic metres (normally given the non-standard shortening of MCM) for most events.

New South Wales Police Force

The New South Wales Police Force (NSW Police Force; previously the New South Wales Police Service and New South Wales Police) is the primary law enforcement agency of the state of New South Wales, Australia. It is a servant of the Crown, independent of Government, although a minister of the Crown has administration. Divided into Police Area Commands (PACs), for metropolitan areas of NSW and Police Districts (PDs), for regional and country areas of NSW, the NSW Police Force consists of more than 500 local police stations and covers an area of 801,600 square kilometres in a state of some seven million people.Under the Police Regulation Act, 1862, the organisation of the NSW Police Force was formally established in 1862 with the unification of all existing independent police units in the state. The authority and responsibility of the entire police force was given to the inspector general of police.The 1990s were a turbulent period in NSW police history. The Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service was held between 1995 and 1997. The Royal Commission uncovered hundreds of instances of corruption including: bribery, money laundering, drug trafficking, and falsifying of evidence by police. The police commissioner, Tony Lauer, resigned as the level of corruption in the service became clear and his own position untenable. Peter James Ryan was recruited from the UK. Wide-ranging reforms occurred as a result of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, including the establishment of a permanent Police Integrity Commission.

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Stuart Diver (born 14 January 1970 in New South Wales, Australia) is a ski instructor and was the sole survivor of the 1997 Thredbo landslide.

Thredbo, New South Wales

Thredbo is a village and ski resort in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Australia, situated in a part of the Snowy Monaro Regional Council, and has been operated by Event Hospitality and Entertainment since 1987.

It is about 500 kilometres (310 mi) south of Sydney, accessible by the Alpine Way via Cooma, Berridale, and Jindabyne. The village is built in the valley of the Thredbo River, also known as the Crackenback River, at the foot of the Ramshead Range.

The town has around 4,150 beds, but a permanent population of only about 471 people. When the mountain is fully covered by snow, Thredbo has the longest ski runs in Australia, and this attracts around 700,000 winter visitors annually. In summer, Thredbo is a hiking and summer sport destination, including rock climbing and abseiling, fishing, cross-country cycling and downhill MTB riding and hosts a blues music festival, boasting approximately 300,000 summer visitors (figures are as of 2005).Thredbo resort was developed by a syndicate of people who were at the time working on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme. In 1957, the syndicate was granted a head-lease over the area that Thredbo now occupies. Development occurred in following years under Lend Lease Corporation. In January 1987, Amalgamated Holdings Limited (AHL) (now known as Event Hospitality and Entertainment) purchased the head lease from Lend Lease. Event operates the Thredbo village, services, real estate, and lease arrangements as a public company; however, a range of private businesses operate around the year providing activities, shopping, restaurants, accommodation, tours and nightlife.

Timeline of Australian history

This is a timeline of Australian history, comprising important legal and territorial changes and political events in Australia and its predecessor states. To read about the background to these events, see History of Australia. See also the list of Prime Ministers of Australia.

Urban Search and Rescue New South Wales AUS-2

New South Wales Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 (or NSWTF/1) was first established as a USAR capability in the lead up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics. After earlier large-scale collapses including the 1977 Granville Train Disaster, 1989 Newcastle earthquake and 1997 Thredbo landslide, Fire & Rescue NSW was legislated as the combat authority for responding to major structural collapse incidents within the state of New South Wales.

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Every state of Australia has a local USAR capability. AUS-2 is one of two Task Forces that deploys internationally to provide international response to natural and man-made disasters - AUS-1 is a capability managed by the Queensland Fire & Emergency Service.

Volunteer Rescue Association

The Volunteer Rescue Association Inc (VRA) is an Australian organisation of volunteer members, they provide rescue to the communities across New South Wales. The first rescue squads, with the assistance of NSW Police formed the Volunteer Rescue Association, groups with common charters can become an affiliate of the Association.

In times of need, whether it be in the emergency or recovery phase, the VRA can bring affiliated squads together to provide assistance to other services or to assist one of its own affiliates.

The first VRA specialist squad, Bushwalkers Search and Rescue (today known as Bush Search and Rescue New South Wales) was formed in 1936. The first VRA General Land Rescue Squad was formed in 1950 to assist Police with recovery of persons from the Murrumbidgee River, to provide flood rescue, evacuations and ferrying of food and medicines between isolated communities around Wagga Wagga in southern NSW. Soon after the Wagga Wagga Rescue Squad became involved in general land rescue. In 1960 the Bourke Rescue Squad was formed, followed in 1962 by the Dubbo Rescue Squad. In 1969, at the suggestion of the State Police Commissioner several volunteer rescue squads (Albury, Dubbo, Narrandera and Wagga Wagga) met and formed the Volunteer Rescue Association. VRA Rescue Squads (Such as The Mudgee Rescue Squad in Jan 1975) continued to be established where a need existed and the Police, Ambulance, Fire Brigade and local community supported the establishment of a volunteer rescue squad.

Today, the Volunteer Rescue Association provides a training structure with CBT Competency Based Training under its own Registered Training Organisation VRA Training Pty Ltd (#40468), and with policies and procedures affiliated rescue squads provide a comprehensive rescue service to the community. The Volunteer Rescue Association provides a command structure when rescue squads come together, during major incidents, with standardisation of equipment, all come together as a cohesive team.

Regional squads can be either land or marine based. Land-based squads can be involved with motor vehicle accident rescue, vertical rescue, river rescue and dive rescue. Marine-based squads can be involved with coastal emergencies on the north and south coast. In addition, there are specialist squads with particular skills who do not operate in any particular region. Examples of these include squads with bushwalking, cave rescue, radio (communications), Australian Civil Air Patrol (aircraft), and dog expertise.

The current President of the Volunteer Rescue Association is Mark Gibson.

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