Year in Review: Biggest stories of January
New Year's Day Nightmare
It was a tragic start to the new year with three car collisions.
In the early hours of New Year's Day, the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter was called to an incident at Clouds Creek on the Armidale to Grafton road. A 19-year-old woman was transported to hospital after sustaining a serious leg injury.
The second collision, located on the Clarence Way resulted in the death of a 75-year-old man when the car he was driving left the road and flipped onto its roof.
A young woman passenger was impaled by a piece of timber when the car rolled on the Armidale Road.
Mini tornado wreaks havoc on Maclean
A Severe storm causes extensive damage and minor flooding after it ripped through Maclean. The storm, which hit the Lower Clarence township at about 1.40pm, was described by residents as a mini tornado.
The destructive aftermath included more than 6000 residents without power, trees down across major roads, the Clarence Hotel roof coming off and solar panels flying off O'Halloran Motors, to name a few.
Youth crime never pays
A 12-year-old boy is arrested and charged in relation to the alleged break-in of Grafton Infants School on December 20. The boy was charged with aggravated break, enter and steal in company and aggravated break, enter, steal and damage property in company.
Police also arrested six young males for a break, enter and steal in Margaret Crescent in South Grafton in the early hours of New Year's Day, which was believed to be linked to a number of other break-ins.
Maclean picks up the pieces
Several businesses and organisations face damage bills in the millions of dollars after Maclean was hit by one of the most damaging storms in living memory. The localised storm, described by a senior meteorologist as a microburst, left scenes akin to a warzone. Clean-up crews were busy restoring the township to its previous pristine state, but for some it would be a long road ahead.
Camping to collisions
It had been a quiet year for campers on the beaches of Yamba and Angourie, according to Clarence Valley Council since cracking down on freedom campers in October 2017.
Meanwhile, Ulmarra residents united to share their frustrations of living by a dangerous section of the Pacific Highway following the third crash in as many months. This is further reinforced by the latest statistics from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics who said there had been an 86 percent rise in fatal crashes involving articulated trucks in NSW.
The Clarence Valley says goodbye
It was a day of reflection as the Clarence Valley said goodbye to two fixtures in the community. Grafton woman Holly Butcher sadly passed away from Ewing's sarcoma early on Thursday morning while diesel mechanic Donald Scott lost his battle with cancer on New Year's Day. Trucks lined the length of Grafton Bridge in a fitting farewell to Mr Scott, who was the MI Organics operations manager at Grafton.
Police were called in the early hours of Sunday morning after the body of a 76-year-old man was found, a short distance from where he was believed to be last sighted in the river. The search began the previous day with The Westpac Rescue Helicopter completing several aerial sweeps of Clarence River at Heifer Station, approximately 70km west of Grafton, to no avail. It is understood the man experienced difficulties whilst swimming at approximately 6pm Saturday evening.
It could be life or death
Clarence Valley emergency services personnel warn the community of a worrying trend of drivers failing to move out of the way of their vehicles when they have their lights and sirens on. The issue prompts police from both the Coffs/Clarence Local Area Command and Traffic and Highway to warn drivers of the seriousness of the issue, and how serious the consequences can be.
Let's not wait
The Ulmarra community, together with The Daily Examiner launch the Let's Not Wait campaign to improve road safety conditions along a dangerous stretch of the Pacific Highway. For decades, residents endured countless crashes, some just metres from their homes, despite repeated requests to make minor changes to the way motorists approach the riverside township from the south.
Police chase in Grafton
Two men from Sydney who allegedly led police on a high-speed pursuit from Coffs Harbour to South Grafton before attempting to flee on foot were refused bail to appear in Grafton Local Court the following week. After the first police pursuit was terminated due to safety concerns, the car was later tracked to Glenugie where officers engaged in a second pursuit. However, this was also terminated due to safety concerns when the vehicle reached speeds in excessive of 170km/h in a 110km/h zone.
Cheap thrills at community's expense
You are going to get caught. That was the message Coffs/Clarence Local Area Command gave to people who chose to do burn outs in the Clarence Valley. Late Tuesday night, Grafton Fire and Rescue responded to reports of an oil spill on the bridge to Carrs Creek Island which was leaking into the river beneath. The bridge near the former Peters Ice-cream factory, which is well-known to police as a hot-spot for hoon behaviour, had become the target of a motorist doing burn outs.
A loving, athletic, funny, bright and smart woman was how Holly Butcher's family and friends described her when hundreds of people came to her funeral at the Grafton Showgrounds to say goodbye. Before her passing Holly wrote a heartfelt letter, which Dean and Holly's partner Luke posted onto her Facebook page in the hours after her death. The message went viral shortly after.
Welcome home, Sasha
After nearly six months in hospital and 14 surgeries, eight-year-old Sasha Berry returns back home with her family in Yamba and ready to begin her enormous journey towards rehabilitation. Sasha's parents Tim and Angela Berry said Sasha will require intensive rehabilitation to re-learn things that once came naturally, such as being able to walk and talk.
Steady fuel prices
According to the NRMA, Grafton finally experiences more stable fuel prices than major cities with Christmas and New year staying steady. In the past week, petrol prices were approximately $1.40-50 per litre in the Lower Clarence and along the Pacific Highway, while fuel Grafton and South Grafton has cost between $1.35-45 per litre.
Emotional brave shave
There were tears and plenty of laughs as family and friends gathered to remember Neville Lollback and raise money in his honour. The World's Greatest Shave event was held in honour of Tiarn Lollback's dad, Neville Lollback, who died in May last year after a battle with lymphoma.
Two more white crosses will be added to Clarence Valley roads after two men in their 50s died in a head-on between two trucks on the Gwydir Highway west of Grafton on Monday afternoon. Emergency services were called just after 2.15pm on Monday to reports the vehicles, a tipper truck and a cattle truck, had collided head on approximately 50km west of Grafton near Jackadgery.
Our Celia sets sail to Commonwealth Games
Yamba's multi-sport athlete Celia Sullohern will compete at her maiden Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April. Sullohern was one of 14 athletes named by Athletics Australia to take part in the games in a live announcement via social media channels today, where she will compete in the 10,000m run. The 25-year-old shot into contention for a spot on the Australian team after taking out the Zatopek 10,000m National Championships in Melbourne in December.
Maclean will endure
Emergency services have held an After Action Review to assess their response to the supercell storm that devastated Maclean earlier this year. The NSW SES, NSW Fire and Rescue and the RFS responded to 115 calls made to the SES help line. Most of the calls were for damage to roofs, broken windows, trees fallen on cars as well as trees down in yards and on roads. Clarence Valley Council and Essential Energy had crews out on the road working to clear trees on roads and to begin the task of restoring power. Amazingly there were no reports of injuries to people caught up in the storm.
New highway junction could lead to disaster
Modifications to the new Pacific Highway, including a second interchange south of Grafton raises concerns for residents living as far north as Ulmarra. A letter sent to directly affected residents in December last year revealed Eight Mile Lane at Glenugie as the primary southbound exit and northbound entry point for motorists south of Grafton. However, Glenugie resident Dick Hughes is concerned this new proposal will create a black spot for motorists entering Grafton using the new junction.
Mission for a cleaner Valley
The mystery behind the yellow garbage bags dotted alongside various Clarence Valley roads is finally revealed as resident Aydan Wise. Several months prior, while running along the Clarence Valley streets, he noticed just how much roadside rubbish there was. Ever since, he has been cleaning up major roads around the region, often producing several hundred bags a day.
Trapped for 10 hours
A woman in her sixties had a lucky escape after waiting almost 10 hours for help after falling down a 20 metre drop from the cliffs at the Iluka Bluff. Police said the woman fell after 10pm on Friday night but was not found until 8.30am the following morning. The woman was treated for a fractured elbow and fractured skull as well as cuts and bruises.
Residents have speeders in their sights
Sick and tired of watching people ignore the 50km/h limit and instead put pedal to the metal through the riverside township, Ulmarra residents have found a way to slow motorists down. A handful of locals decided to purchase a speed radar gun which has been calibrated to Highway Patrol standards to get an accurate record of how fast people were travelling. This attention later casts the community into the national spotlight.
South Grafton thief
Footage of a thief caught stealing from a South Grafton home. Early Monday morning a male broke into a house on Moorehead Drive, South Grafton and began rifling through things in the home while the occupants slept. The homeowner later posted the footage on social media in the hope that someone would recognise the person.
Private hospital thumbs up
The planners for a $12.5 million private hospital development in Grafton have convinced a NSW Government planning panel to give it the green light. The Joint Regional Planning Panel met in the Grafton Council Chambers and approved the DA for the four storey, two-stage development in less than 30 minutes.
Some people never learn
An Iluka man who was caught drink driving twice on the same day, and resisted arrest the first time he was stopped by police, is sentenced in Maclean Local Court. The 45-year-old also received a 12-month good behaviour bond when convicted on charges of driving recklessly and not obeying directions of police when he evaded a police RBT in Iluka on Australia Day the previous year.
Australia Day award honour
Clarence Valley research scientist Colin Creighton is recognised as a Member of the Order of Australia. He was recognised at the Australia Day ceremony for significant service, leadership and innovation in environmental science and natural resource management, especially marine biodiversity, coastal ecology, fisheries and sustainable agriculture.
It was an emotional evening for Mel Livermore as she was announced Citizen of the Year for the Australia Day awards ceremony alongside Des Harvey. Livermore has dedicated her time to helping youth, finding them beds, food, help with their school work - anything they needed. Described as a passionate and devoted advocate for the Clarence Valley, Mr Harvey said one of his biggest achievements was getting the new bridge across the Clarence River at Grafton started.
Sister trio win big
The McClymonts won big at last night's country music awards in Tamworth. Grafton's all-sister trio - Brooke, Sam and Mollie - took out the coveted Album of the Year award for their fifth studio album Endless. They also took home the gong for Group or Duo of the Year and Contemporary Country Album of the Year, bringing their total of Golden Guitars to 15 over the band's 11 years in country music.
A head-on collision closed the Pacific Highway when one vehicle crossed to the wrong side of the road according to Coffs/Clarence Local Area Command. Before the Toyota Hilux was involved in the two-car collision near Chatsworth Island, the same Hilux was sighted swerving across the road while travelling north near Ulmarra and reported to police.
Failed stolen cargo plot
A trail of text messages and phone photographs has led to a court finding a Grafton truck driver guilty of stealing part of his cargo. The man pleaded guilty to charges of larceny as a bailee and failure to appear in court, when he appeared in Grafton Local Court. Police facts in the case allege the man and a co-accused entered into an agreement to steal part of a consignment of cigarettes from the back of a truck driven by the man.
Online trolls never win
A truck driver has come out and publicly apologised to Ulmarra residents after making a series of offensive comments on their community Facebook page. The apology appeared on social media a few days after the offensive comments were posted.