Sometimes good things just happen … sometimes very bad things just happen …
The Courier Mail journalist Peter Michael and myself were on the Atherton Tablelands covering the story of the virus that had killed four elderly patients at Herberton Hospital. On the very off chance we also dropped into an address that we had for one of the most badly injured of the survivors of last June’s appalling and unfathomable ‘Serves You Right Cafe’ explosion in Ravenshoe. (For the few that may not remember – an out of control ute inexplicably careered into a large gas bottle at the rear of the cafe – causing a massive explosion that killed two and injured twenty more).
Noeleen Avenell answered her door to us dressed in one of her full pressure suits – a fact of her life since the explosion – and invited us in. We then sat enthralled as she regaled us with her story over the months since the accident.
Noeleen was the chef at the cafe that day and told us of the the moment the vehicle smashed into the gas bottle followed seconds later by the massive explosion that, mixed with the burning cooking oil she was working over, engulfed her. She was dragged from the smouldering cafe by her ankles – the only parts of her body that weren’t burnt – and remembers being placed into the ambulance. She woke up from a coma a month later in the Royal Brisbane Hospital with burns to near sixty percent of her body and rated only a five percent chance of survival, spent four months in intensive care and has so far endured eighteen operations – but it was evident from her talk with us that she has not lost her sense of humour.
More of Noeleen’s saga … and evidence of her wicked sense of humour … can be found in Saturdays The Courier Mail story here (possibly only to News Ltd subscribers unfortunately).
Thank You Noeleen for your incredible story, allowing me to make your portrait … and for showing truly amazing strength and dignity.
Below is one of the portraits made … and grabs of page 1 and page 12 of Saturdays The Courier Mail.
Images © Brian Cassey