IT MAY be 20 years on, but devastation of the Thredbo landslide is something that will never leave one Leeton resident.
Leeton Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA) captain Glen Hehir was one of five members tasked to assist in the dark days that followed the unfolding tragedy, which occurred on July 30, 1997.
The landslide claimed the lives of 18 people when it struck at 11.35pm, sweeping away two buildings.
Mr Hehir and the crew from Leeton were called to Thredbo in the days after the incident, arriving after sole survivor Stuart Diver had been removed from the wreckage.
“Our role at Thredbo was to be the eyes and ears for the guys undertaking the recovery work,” he said.
“Basically we were required to stand as lookouts keeping an eye on the mountain and listening out for anything that might sound like another landslide coming.
“It was a very steep mountain and you were required to stand there, not moving and paying very close attention.
“If you heard or saw something you had to blow your whistle and all the teams would come off the mountain.
“It wasn’t a rescue mission when we were there. Stuart had been brought out and there was no hope of finding anyone else alive.
“The whole site was really unstable.”
The landslide occurred when about 1000 tonnes of liquefied earth and debris came down the slope.
Mr Hehir said the days at Thredbo would stay with him for many years to come.
“Obviously in the days afterwards you thought about it all the time … it was a very haunting place to be,” he said.
“I couldn’t believe it when I heard it was the 20th anniversary. Ours was a different job to the others on the mountain. They were the real heroes.
“One of our team members from Leeton, Jeff Collins, was in the recovery team though. We were given our briefs when we arrived at Thredbo, but I still don’t think we were fully prepared for what was waiting for us.
“It was very eerie. I just remember how freezing it was as well. We obviously hadn’t been part of anything like that ever before.” The 20th anniversary of the disaster was marked on July 30 with church services and a night run down the slope.