Five years ago the Icepak coolstores exploded, killing fireman Derek Lovell, injuring seven others and scarring the Tamahere community. Described as one of the worst industrial accidents in the country’s history, it occurred on a night when the community were together, at the local school’s fundraiser.
Not enough has changed, says Philippa Stevenson, Tamahere resident and journalist. Industrial safety legislation remains inadequate and communities remain at risk from similar disasters in the future.
Philippa watched the tragedy unfold, and has covered stories on it for national papers, attended court hearings and inquiries. She wrote this story for Tamahere Forum, Number 8 Network’s sister community website.
TAMAHERE’S Model Country School’s annual Pumpkin Night, held a week ago, was a delight.
Families turned out at the Waikato school’s yearly fundraiser to be awed by giant pumpkins and the creativity of kids (and no doubt parents) who had fashioned quirky artworks from a range of vegetables.
Children rode horses and small, four-wheel motorbikes, jumped and slid on bouncy castles and everyone ate their way through pumpkin soup, pumpkin cookies, burgers and sausages – all paid for with pumpkin money.
A good community supporting the school, the hub around which everything in the area spins.
As one Pumpkin Night follows another it feels like nothing changes.
But some things certainly need to change. Because Pumpkin Night five years ago ended before it began with a black mushroom cloud blasting and boiled into the sky, taking the lives we planned and dispersing them to the four winds.
On that night in 2008, New Zealand etched another name – “the Tamahere fire” – on its roll of tragedy.
Another son, husband, father and friend, fireman Derek Lovell, was added to the list of those who went out to work one day and never came home.
Another small community was scarred as a gas-fuelled explosion ripped through a rural coolstore and burned for seven days.