What I’ve learnt from surviving a school trip that went terribly wrong

How I survived a school trip that went tragically wrong


I’m known for surviving – and I’m very thankful for that!

My mother tells stories of me surviving a few times before I’d even started walking  –

  • there was the dreadful car accident with her when I was a few months old.  We were on our way to see my father so he could meet me for the first time – he’d been overseas in the Navy when I was born and didn’t get to see me, his first born,  until I was 4 months old.
  • then there was the near catastrophic bout of Double Pneumonia and Golden Staph that had me hospitalised for months and only for my chubbiness, I wouldn’t have survived – my father was away at sea for that incident too and they would have only let him off the ship if I’d died.  So much for compassion!

And then many years later I survived the births of my first two daughters – had I lived in earlier times I would definitely not have survived the postpartum haemorrhages and retained placenta issues.  My third daughter had to be a caesarean as a result of these earlier two births, enabling more control over my placenta that didn’t want to leave its comfy locale! Ugh!!!!!

So I’m definitely a survivor!

40 years ago – May 1978

It was 40 years ago in May 1978, that I set off on a dream trip with my friends, my French teachers, and other French students from my school, all of us armed with a real sense of adventure. We headed off to New Caledonia ready to practice our French language skills and immerse ourselves in the culture of the French island.

I was 17 and in Year 12, my final year of school, at Bomaderry High School, a public high school on the NSW South Coast (Australia).

Little did we know that within a few days we would be heading home after surviving a tragic accident which took the lives of 3 people, two of whom were young students in the prime of their lives.

I was one of the oldest students on the trip with two of my best friends. But sadly only two of us returned home alive.

I have alluded to this accident in a few posts before, and more recently in a guest post I wrote for Miriam on her Out an’ About blog – Five Fab Favourites. I expanded on the accident in a  private message with Miriam and she commented in her post that it was my story to tell. Here’s an excerpt from my guest post:

I hadn’t travelled outside of Australia until I was on an ill-fated and ultimately tragic school excursion to Noumea in 1978.  That experience was awful and enough to put me off travel forever but I didn’t let it faze me, although it did take me another 14 years before I left the country again for an overseas trip. (Side-note: I asked Deb about this experience which she shared with me, however the details are very personal and I’ve decided it’s her story to tell. Suffice to say she’s one courageous individual. Miriam)

It was Miriam’s comment, that it was my story to tell, and a podcast about survival, that made me think it was about time I told my story. Listening to the podcast of Anna Bartsch talking to Richard Fidler, about her survival of a plane crash in Burma a few years ago, got me thinking.  I had to write my own story down. I have told it numerous times over the years, but I’ve never written about it, which is strange for me.

Anna had said things in her interview that stirred my memories and her clarity of the situation years later, made me nod in agreement. I had goosebumps throughout the interview and I remember turning to my husband as the podcast finished, with tears in my eyes, telling him I felt compelled to write about my accident.

My story

I can be back in New Caledonia on the night of the accident in an instant.  Despite it being 40 years ago, it is as clear as if it was yesterday.  My heart starts to race, my senses kick in, my thoughts crystallize and I’m there. 

Isn’t it strange what the mind can do, as I scratch around trying to remember what I actually did last Tuesday, but 40 years ago – hey, no problem??

We had left Australia with excitement on Saturday 6 May 1978. A group of 42 students and 4 teachers. My then boyfriend, now husband, (the Mathematician), drove me to the airport and waved me off. I remember on our way to the airport, in the early hours of the morning, that we nearly hit a cow standing in the middle of the road! I thought nothing of it until later on. It has become part of my story as I often wonder if it was a portent of what was to come.

At 1.00am on Thursday 11 May 1978 we were returning in two buses to our hotel Chez Maitre Pierre at Hienghene, after spending the evening at a disco at a nearby resort, with a group of students from a Wagga school.

It was raining heavily and I was on the first bus which left with 13 people on board – 4 adults and 9 students plus the bus driver.  I remember the road was winding, narrow and slippery.  The bus slid from the road and overturned, rolling four or five times down a forty metre embankment, ending up submerged in the river, La Hienghene, with only a small part of the bus showing above the water.

I was thrown from the bus as it rolled down the embankment and sustained concussion, shock,  cuts, glass embedded throughout my body and other minor injuries, but somehow I had survived.

In total darkness, and with no sign of panic, those of us who had managed to escape from the bus immediately set about the task of rescuing the injured, resuscitating those who had drowned and caring for them until rescuers arrived, more than two hours later.

But for their actions the loss of life would have been far greater.

It was tragic – 3 of the 13 people aboard, died on that bus.

Many of my friends were still in the bus in the water, and repeatedly dived inside it to try to rescue the others. One of the adults on the bus also made every effort to get the others out.  Between us all we were able to rescue everyone except David Christmas (15) whose body was recovered the next day.  Of the adults on the bus, most were either injured or incapacitated in some way and it was up to us students to rescue and care for them until help arrived.

Somehow I was thrown from the bus as it rolled down the embankment, which in my mind was (and still is) a cliff.  I had been asleep on the bus and I don’t remember anything about being thrown out as it rolled. Once I’d regained consciousness I climbed down to the others at the water’s edge and helped out.  I was suffering from shock, the after effects of concussion, had glass embedded in my head and feet (not removed until weeks later) and was bleeding from multiple cuts.  I assisted other students care for the adults who had been dragged from the submerged bus to the shore and climbed back up the embankment to give the helpers an accurate picture of the situation.

I clearly remember wearing a beautiful dress my mother had made me, and my good shoes.  Surprisingly I was still wearing one of them and managed to find the other (don’t ask me how!).  I can see myself placing them both neatly together at the water’s edge as if I was simply going to bed. It’s all a bit like a video reel in my head. Of course, all our belongings with passports, money, and personal items were lost in the bus.

Wearing the lovely dresses our mother had made us. This blue dress is what I was wearing the night of the accident.
With my sister. This blue dress is what I was wearing the night of the accident.

This was nothing compared to the loss of our friends’ lives and the trauma of the accident.

The second bus with the remainder of the students and adults arrived back at the accommodation and wondered where we were because our bus had been ahead of them.  The alarm was soon raised but due to the location of the accident it seemed to take ages for help to arrive.

Another memory I have is of saying ‘I have a bit of a cut on my head but I’m OK, what can I do to help?’ 

Some of the group were taken to the infirmary for a cursory check-over but I don’t remember being seen, I think because on the surface I looked fine. I overheard a conversation about my friend Leonie, who was a champion swimmer, and hearing the words that she had drowned. I couldn’t believe it, this was not fair!

Not all of the group had gone to the dance so there were a few teachers who were uninjured and able to care for us but as one of the remaining two oldest students my friend Ann and I, took on the task of looking after the two students who had both lost a sibling in the accident.  The other person who died was a French local who had been attached to the resort we were staying in.

Things must have moved quickly because we were flown home on Saturday 13 May after a night in a motel in Noumea.

At home

Back home in our small town, the news was announced in the media in such a way that left everyone wondering about the details.  The message was that 3 people from our trip had died but no names were given out, which left everyone in a state of panic.

In a bizarre coincidence the Mathematician had decided to help my father out with his freight delivery service on the day the news was released. He remembers sitting in the truck listening to the news on the radio and then having to tell my father about it, not knowing if I was alive or not.  Dad drove home like a maniac,forgetting his business customers and deliveries, so that he could be with mum to hopefully find out some news. My husband remembers it as one of the worst days of his life, having to tell my father the news and worrying about me at the same time. This was in the days before mobile access!

Somehow my father had managed to not only find out which motel we were staying in, but to also get through on the phone to me.  He just wanted to hear my voice to know I was alive. I have never heard my father so upset before, or since, that day.  He was so happy to hear my voice but mum and dad were both still very worried about me. Mum remembers dealing with the school and waiting for news from them about what would happen, she was not terribly impressed.

The plan had originally been that the Mathematician would pick me up from the airport after the trip, but that went out the window! He wasn’t allowed to come, so it was dad, mum and my two siblings there to collect me (at least I think my sister and brother were there) and dad drove us home like an insane rally driver. 

After what I’d been through, the last thing I needed was dad driving like that on the 2 hour drive along bendy roads in the middle of the night. I actually dredged up the courage from somewhere, to tell dad to slow down.  Believe me, you didn’t tell my father to do anything!!  He had simply wanted to get me home safe and sound.

What happened next?

Well, we were expected to go back to school as if nothing had happened. We had no counselling that I remember, no support and no-one really understood what we’d been through. We went to the two funerals of our friends, Leonie and David, on 16 May and both were held on the same day. It was a surreal experience.

It was found that I had glass throughout my head, legs and feet and so I had to have the wounds re-opened and the glass removed.  This necessitated my head to be shaved in parts and I would go to my kind hairdressers every day or so for them to wash my hair with dry shampoo and I wore a scarf to cover the bandages. I had a few health issues as a result of the stress but I just had to get on with things, like my final exams and finishing school in the October of that year.  My parents were supportive and understanding but they were just so pleased to have me back in one piece. There was a lot going on.

Interview by local paper when the Award was announced
Interview by local paper when the Award was announced

After the story hit the media, we were made out to be heroes and six of us were nominated for Bravery Awards from the Queen.  I’ve read back through all the newspaper articles recently and it was harrowing stuff, even 40 years later! But I’m not a hero.

News that the Queen has approved bravery awards for six young students a Bomaderry and Nowra High Schools is a timely reminder of the fine style of young people who live in our area. 

South Coast Register June 6 1979

Award Ceremony

On October 8, 1979, the six of us and our families, plus the Mathematician, travelled to Government House Sydney to receive our awards from His Excellency the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Roden Cutler.

I received the Insignia of the Australian Commendation for Brave Conduct and afterwards I went shopping with my mother and bought my wedding dress! I was married early in the new year, on January 12 1980! (And yes I was only 19 when I married and yes we’re still happily married to this day!)

My official citation reads:

Be it known that, with the approval of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Second, Queen of Australia, I have awarded the Commendation for Brave Conduct to

Deborah Anne Pittaway:

On 11 May 1978, at about 1am in New Caledonia, a bus carrying a party of Australian school students, plunged off a road during heavy rain into a river and became partly submerged.  Miss Pittaway, a student in the party, was thrown from the bus as it left the road.  Although suffering from a severe cut to the head and shock, as well as the after effects of concussion, Miss Pittaway helped to care for a number of the more seriously injured and later assisted the rescue workers.

Miss Pittaway displayed commendable courage in such hazardous conditions.

Bravery Award
Bravery Award

What I’ve learnt since the accident


We lost a great friend, Leonie Davidson at age 17, she was far too young to die.  Leonie’s younger sister Rhonda was on the trip with us.  David Christmas was only 15 and his older sister Anna was on the trip too – it was just awful. 

As the oldest students, Ann and I helped console and care for both these girls after the accident, to the best of our ability. Their families have never recovered from this loss.


I have a real fear of steep, winding roads, especially if it’s raining or snowing and especially if I’m in a bus.

I hate getting too close to edges but have tried to overcome this fear by walking in Nepal and the jungles of Papua New Guinea.

I have never returned to the area of the accident but would like to go back one day.

We received some monetary compensation years later.

There was some talk afterwards, that the bus driver had been drinking, but I can’t prove this.


I have learnt to make the most of our days, as we never know what is around the corner.

I will never get over this accident, but I have learnt to live with it.

Things have changed in the way counselling is offered at schools and for tragic events these days, and for the better I must say.  We could have, and should have, been offered help to deal with this accident instead of just carrying on as per normal. I often wonder what difference it would have made to my life. I have been tempted at times to seek out counselling in the intervening years but have never followed through, life was always too busy with my growing family.

My friend Ann went on to be my bridesmaid at my wedding to the Mathematician.

I don’t feel particularly brave or courageous. I just feel lucky that I am still alive and I live a wonderful life.

Life isn’t for the faint-hearted so it’s up to each of us to make the most of it.

This has not been an easy post to write but I am glad to have finally done it. It’s taken me ages to write too!

I hope that by finally writing this down, in my own words, it helps clear my mind in some ways.

I was travelling overseas with the Mathematician and my eldest daughter on 11 May 2018. I said a few words for Leonie and David’s souls, and for those of us left behind after this tragic accident, 40 years ago.

Thanks for listening to my story 🙂

Deb xx

Also featured here in Denyse’s Women of Courage series

Linking up to #lifethisweek with the prompt of Special Anniversaries

What surviving a tragic school trip has taught me despite it being 40 years ago


Debbie is an award winning blogger and lives in the small town of Tumbarumba in NSW Australia. Married for 40 years, with three grown up daughters, Debbie and the Mathematician are avid travellers, cyclists and adventurers. Described by others as a ‘hummingbird on speed’ this active mother and grandmother has also received a bravery award from the Queen.

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171 Replies to “What I’ve learnt from surviving a school trip that went terribly wrong”

  1. What a tragic series of events to have both experienced and carried for so long. I don’t know that anyone ever recovers from something like this but you move on – with time – and gain in strength, resilience and gratitude to cope with other difficult life events which will inevitably surface along the way. To have inspired others to do the same is a fantastic silver lining.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow Deb!, what an awful, traumatic experience & at such an impressionable young age. You could have lived with anxiety & fear from that day on, but no doubt, thanks to the support network of your family, partner & friends, you have been able to carry on with your life in a positive way. Thank you for sharing this story, I’m sure it is comfort to others who have been through a similar experience. It is really well expressed and a very moving piece to read. Tracey x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Tracey for your kind words. It really was an awful experience for everyone, and despite being all those years ago, it is something that has stayed with me. It was good to finally write it all down too, as you can imagine. It came from the heart x


    1. Oh Erica, you are so kind. I accept your hugs and will stay hugging you for a while longer than is really necessary because I’ve missed getting hugs!!! I love getting comments that tell me I’ve managed to move people with my words and memories, so a huge thank you to you for reading and letting know how you felt. Now wipe your tears and smile because I survived the accident and I finally managed to wrote my story to share with others xxoo

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Again, I don’t really have the true words to convey how your powerful message makes me feel……..yet, you are a true example on how living your best life, gratitude, “jumping” into all the adventures and opportunities is a testament to being alive. Thank you for this. And continuing with the infinite hugs…………..❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmm, I thought I’d already responded to this story, I totally got goosebumps reading John’s comment. In the past I have found writing about difficult experiences really cathartic and I hope that it’s the same for you. What a terrible experience for you to have to go through and especially at such a young age and without any professional emotional support after the event. I have been in a similar kind of traffic accident and can vouch for how terrifying it is. I am in awe of your strength and resilience not only to survive the accident but then go on to save and give comfort to others. You were such a guardian angel for so many that day and your award from the Queen is so well deserved. Big hugs for you x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Sammie, the whole writing and addressing these issues (finally) has helped a lot. I have been blown away by the comments from random people like Jon and Lea and the way others have responded has been heartwarming. Thanks so much for your kind and sensitive comment. x


  4. Deb your memories of this dreadful day are so clear. Your resilience really showed through when it was needed. You should feel very proud of yourself. Reading your story made me think of my son. When he died he was in his first year of work but most of his friends were in year 12. Thankfully counselling was available to them at school. Thanks for sharing your story Deb

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and leaving me your lovely comment Jennifer. I am proud of myself although I sometimes wonder what would have changed if we’d have had counselling at the time, but now I’ll never know! I am glad your son’s friends were given support when they needed it. I really feel for you on the loss of your son x


  5. Hey Deb, I’ve just caught up with your story and what a traumatic one at that! You have been incredibly brave to share and I hope in doing so went some way to heal the mental wounds. Wow! what an experience! x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear Debbie, through some serendipitous internet event I have come across your blog and this post.
    It was my dad who came across your mum and you, as a little baby, in the car accident you mention at the beginning of your post. It was a dark, rainy night near Yass. You and your mum went to the hospital and he gathered up all the gear out of the car that had been strewn across the road, took the clothing etc home and my mum washed it all clean . Your mum and you stayed with our family while recovering. I was about 4 years old myself but remember your lovely mum very clearly.
    My mum brought me a doll after you both left and we called it Debbie Anne, after you. I still have her.
    I remember dad saying how blessed you both were to survive that crash, and it seems that despite what life has continued to throw at you the underlying courage necessary to keep going and living is inherent in you.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh my goodness Lea, you have taken my breath away with your comment and message! I am so grateful to your family for the care you took of mum and I after this accident. I can’t believe you found my post! I’ll be in touch. Thank you for your kind words and for your fabulous comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Deb, Thanks for this. It must have been a terrible experience and life changing for many. I was in that year and knew you and Leonie but not David. Good luck for the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your message Stephen. It really was a terrible experience for all of us and the after effects were hard too and carry on still. I appreciate your good wishes. Deb


  8. WOW. That’s a harrowing experience and I hate to think what the sibling went through. I think you did show bravery, even if it didn’t feel like courage to you at the time. I’m sorry for the losses and I’m glad you managed to control how much this altering event effected you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a harrowing and awful story! Even though you may not feel brave, your actions that night and after the accident certainly WERE brave! Thank you for telling your story. I believe you will help others who have suffered similar circumstances.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Deb, I was looking on the map today as was going to a place near Nowra and saw Bomaderry. It brought back vivid memories for me as I too was on a school trip to Noumea at the same time. I was 16 and remembered meeting your group, we were from a school in Sydney’s east. My memories were how strong your group was and couldn’t believe how well your group was coping after such a tragedy. I would never try to put myself in your shoes after all this time and what you have endued. I always wondered how your group would cope during life as the following year, friends of mine lost their brothers in the Ghost Train fire at Luna Park. When that tragedy occurred I actually thought of your group and the strength it had and that strength help myself and others on the Noumea trip with the Luna Park tragedy. I googled today Bomaderry and Noumea and came across your blog, that has brought me here. So after all these years and you wouldn’t know it but your heroics did help other people and I’d thought I’d share this with you as you and your entire group were and are heroes. I truely thank you for you recounting your painful story such a long time after the event and thought you would like to know how you helped others without you knowing it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. OMG!! John I have goosebumps reading your comment! I never believed my story would reach so many and I am thrilled that you made the effort to leave a comment on my post instead of just reading it and moving on.

      I do remember meeting another school group and what a small world that you were there at the same time.

      I remember having to be strong and as one of the oldest it was a huge responsibility at the time but we just had to get on with it. It’s odd you mention the Luna Park accident as anything of this sort brings back memories instantly and I feel for everyone involved, knowing in some way what they’re going through. I still feel the stab of pain of being forgotten or left on our own afterwards and not helped through it.

      I am gobsmacked and in shock in some way at you finding my blog and the connections. I also sincerely appreciate your words of support and for letting me know my words and actions have helped. I honestly didn’t expect this to be the case, I was just writing my story to try to get it out of my head. It’s still in there though but I feel more at peace with it now. I can’t thank you enough, you have made my day!!

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Hi Deb. I’m glad I wandered upon this post today, popping over from SIPB. As so many others have said, you ARE brave to share your story with the world, to be willing to relive it, even after 40 years. You kept saying how you aren’t that brave and you were no hero but, you know what? Every real hero I’ve ever heard or read about says exactly that. They all say “I’m no hero; I just did what I had to do.” And may we humans continue to respond gallantly and bravely in the face of such tragedy and loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh Deb, what a terrible, horrific accident and how you have written of it brought all my emotions to the fore.
    As a mother, teacher and grandmother the ways in which I have seen our family off on trips always with the hope “all will be well” as your parents & school would have thought too.
    Thank you for sharing such a major part of yoir life that will never be erased nor forgotten.
    I hope your OS trip this time is wonderful.
    Denyse x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Denyse for your understanding and thoughtful comment. It was an awful ordeal and I’m glad I’ve finally written about it. I am enjoying the time away but at times I still can’t believe I’m actually here!! It’s all so different and I have to pinch myself 🙂 Hope all is going well with you. x


      1. Back again…two years later..to say “wow…glad you are OK but these things never leave us as it is embedded in your memory.”

        Thanks so much for linking up for Life This Week. Next week, the optional prompt is 20/51 Share Your Snaps #4. 18.5.2020 and I look forward to catching you linking up there too. Warm wishes, Denyse.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. What an amazing story. Bless your dear, sweet heart. I can only imagine the sheer terror of that night. How you managed to remain so brave is beyond me. What a tribute to the person you are. And your poor parents, your poor father so desperate to hear his baby’s voice and know she was ok. Thank you for sharing with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. That is an amazing story, and I can’t imagine what it must have been like to live through an accident like that. I hope sharing the story helps you work through the trauma. You did what you had to to in a difficult situation. Whether or not you think of yourself as a hero, you behaved like one that night, I think. Peace to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi Deb, I read this first in Tassie and didn’t comment then because i hate using my phone for comments. Hooley dooley what an experience.Sounds lucky that a lot more people didn’t die or sustain injuries. It must have been really hard coping back at home afterwards. And as you say it wouldn’t really had the proper support like you would get these days. It must have been terribly hard for the town and the school community too. Quite a story. Louise x

    Liked by 1 person

      1. things were very different. These days with the hoops and checks schools have to go through to do anything, you guys would have NOT gone to a disco and the person bus would have been vetted heavily. And support if something went wrong would be on overdrive.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. What an incredible story, Deb! Thank you for sharing it with the world. I am not a fan of bridges, winding roads, and slippery slopes either. So true about counseling in school being way more available now than back then. Kudos to you for your bravery and courage. Visiting from Blogger’s Pit Stop.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thank you for sharing this heartfelt story. You were so brave and compassionate back then and still brave to write this tragic story. I am glad that you got an award which must have been bitter/sweet. How nice that you went on to marry the mathematician nothing like a little romance to heal the heart. I understand the vivid memory, I have an event 43 years ago and in some ways it is like yesterday, to think about it I can tear up in two seconds. No wonder there is a physical as well as an emotional toll after tragic circumstances. It was nice to hear a little about your dear dad in your story, he was awesome.
    I think we should feature your story and be thankful that you are alive to tell it. Obviously, God has a purpose for protecting your life through many traumas. Untested we would not know our strengths.
    Blogger’s Pit Stop

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I can only imagine how difficult it has been to hold that story in for so many years and feel the loss of your young friends who, but for the accident, would be here today. I know a little something about post-traumatic stress disorder myself and I know flashbacks to the incident can affect you physically as if you were actually in the moment again. I hope that sharing your story helps you. And I’m glad it didn’t stop you from continuing to travel!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Linda, it has been difficult over the years and I’m glad I’ve finally written it down. The flashbacks have been quite scary at times as my whole body reacts so vividly, it seems I’m back there for real. It took me a while to travel again for lots of reasons but thankfully I did get out there and now you can’t stop me! I appreciate your understanding and your comment.


  19. Oh Deb what a tragic accident. I can only imagine the lifelong trauma. You were brave then and very brave now to share your story. I’m not sure if the media reports of the terrible bus crash with the young hockey team have reached Australia. It’s in rural Canada where I grew up. 16 lost their lives and similar ages to your group. Excruciating loss. Sending hugs to you and thinking of those you lost that day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Sue and yes we have heard of the dreadful accident over there. It’s so incredibly sad and I always suffer when I hear of another accident like mine. All the best to everyone suffering over there as well and thanks for your hugs.xx

      Liked by 1 person

  20. What a terrible terrible event to live through. I also send my condolences to the families who lost loved ones. I really hope that writing it down has been cathartic for you. You were incredibly brave and deserved your awards. Wow. As you allude in those days there was no such thing as counselling. You just had to get on with things, though sometimes I wonder if our generation isn’t stronger for it. Your story was sad, revealing and heartwarming. Isn’t it funny and amazing and wonderful how much our blogging community gets to know about one another in a very real and honest way. I hope you enjoy your imminent travels and come back refreshed and renewed with world wonder.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean Jo, because life was different then,were we more resilient as a result or did we not know any different?
      I’m looking forward to our travels next month, it’s coming around very quickly!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for your support, it’s much appreciated ❤️


  21. This is such an incredible story. I do think you were very brave Deb to endure all you did with very little support it seems. Thankfully times have moved on. I’m sure any students today in such a situation would be offered support and counselling. By the way I heard the Richard Fidler interview with the Burma plane crash victim just a few weeks ago. It’s been on my mind for some reason ever since. Couldn’t believe it when I saw you mention of it

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jennifer, the interview had been been on my mind for a while too! Isn’t it funny how things cross over sometimes like that? I only heard it because it was recommended in another podcast I was listening to at the time and I thought it sounded like something I’d appreciate hearing – how right I was!! I appreciate your thoughts on the accident and agree that these days things would be done very differently (thankfully!). Lovely to hear from you.


  22. Deb, I was glued to your story from start to end. What a dreadful thing to have happened on what should have been a trip of a lifetime! Those poor kids and their families and so traumatic for all on that trip especially the siblings. I know that this will be with you for life. I’ve had a couple of accidents (not as awful as yours) in my past that are as clear as the day they happened for me today as well. I hope that you’ve found it helpful to write out your story and applaud you for being brave enough to do so. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Min, I appreciate your comments. I agree things have changed for the better in regard to mental health and PTSD issues. I have found it helpful to have written it now and especially all the supportive comments and kind words, it’s helped me a lot. Thanks again.


  23. Thank you for sharing your story, Deb. Trauma like what you experienced at such a young age doesn’t leave us. You did the right and brave things not only at the accident site but since then.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Deb! I thought I would pop on over to your blog today and then I read this story! I have tears sliding down my cheeks as I read your detailed account of the accident. May 1978, was the second to last month in my high school as I graduated. We lost a beloved friend the September before to a boating accident (San Diego), something I still think about 40 years later. Teens taken too young is the saddest loss of human potential. I believe that your sleeping on the bus that night saved your life and contributed to the calm state of mind that helped you rescue the others. Like Jodie and others, it is hard to find words to convey the horror of that accident. I do smile thinking that you were honored by the Queen. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt story. We are attending our 40-year high school reunion in September and through Facebook, we already know of many classmates who have passed into eternity already. If you are friends with any of your classmates, cherish them and hopefully there will be a reunion coming soon! By the way, thank you so much for the review of my little e-book. It was a lovely surprise!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your heartfelt comment Terri! I agree with you that being asleep probably helped me not to break any bones as well as kept me calm. I’m sorry you also had a tragic incident in your final months of school too. It’s so sad to read of lost lives at any age isn’t it? We also have a 40 reunion planned for later in the year, it’s always interesting to see and hear what everyone is up to. Facebook has been very useful for reconnecting with friends. I enjoyed your ebook, so it was my pleasure to do the review. All the best to you ❤️ and thanks again for your lovely visit.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. I read this yesterday, and I can’t stop thinking about this, and everything you went through. It’s a story that shakes anyone reading it to the core. The whole experience must have affected you in innumerable ways – thank you for sharing it with us x

    Liked by 1 person

  26. It’s incredible that you can remember it so vividly, Debbie. And it really goes to show how strong you really are. Life isn’t all about roses and fun, and you are such a perfect example of how you can survive. The trauma and shock of it all even makes it hard for me to comment….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree Jodie, it amazes me how clearly I can still see it all in my head but apparently that happens in these types of situations. Thanks for your caring comment, I am glad I’ve finally written it all down now xx


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  28. Jesus this is terrifying. Thank goodness you not only survived but were lucid enough to help other people. I always cringe and squirm when I see movies of videos of people on extremely narrow, extremely high roads or paths. You’re a stronger person than I to go hiking in Nepal!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I’m so glad you finally told your story Deb. Reading your words again, with all of the details, affected me just as they did the first time. Such a tragic traumatic event that no time I’m sure will ever truly erase, but it’s obviously shaped you in so many ways. You’re more than just a survivor Deb. You are one strong, courageous, inspiring woman with a huge love of life and I’m so proud to call you my friend. xo

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Aww Deb, no thanks necessary, it’s your story, your life and I’m so proud of how you wrote it. Can’t have been easy but hopefully it was cathartic. Much love and hugs xx

        Liked by 1 person

  30. What an awful experience. It’s difficult to know what to say. It was right that you all were commended for your actions, you & your friends were very brave. I can’t imagine how you’ve had to deal with this without counselling. Well done for writing this down

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sam, no words are needed! I often wonder how different things would be if I’d had counselling but now we’ll never know. In some ways I’ve taken things into my own hands by writing this post 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  31. Deb I do not have words to adequately express how I feel racing your story. Such courage at a young age and a tragedy which will never leave you. I am honoured to call you my friend even though we are yet to meet IRL. Life is never fair and we surely never know what will happen. Thank you for your bravery then and now in sharing your experience with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment Sue, I have had such an unexpected response to my post that I’m a bit taken aback! I agree that we never know what will happen in our life and so it’s important to make it the best we can. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  32. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Things like this will never leave you so for you to share this story with us coming up to a poignant anniversary is a very brave thing to do. I wish you well on your travels with your family

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Wow, Deb – what an incredible story. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. How brave you all were to jump in the rescue people after what had just happened to YOU. What an inspiration you are. I hope this does bring you some peace. Wonderful, powerful writing! Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Erin, I truly appreciate your kind words but I think it’s something that you just do at the time, without even thinking about it. I’m glad I’ve finally written it out of my head, if that makes sense! x

      Liked by 1 person

  34. Wow, what a story! I think the true measure of an individual is how they react when they are put into situations like this. Most of us will never be tested like that, but most (all?) of us are confident that we’d step up if we were. Of course, not all do… you did.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re right, most people would step up if needed but thankfully not everyone is tested this way. I just did what I had to do, without much thinking required. I’m proud of my actions now that I look back on it too. Thanks for joining in.


      1. I’m not sure most would. I’d like to think so but… I guess my point was that we all think we would react a certain way (usually in a way that makes us feel good about ourselves) but, until we are in the moment, we never really know. Your reaction – even though you say that you didn’t really think about it at the time – showed your true character.

        Liked by 1 person

  35. Hi, Debbie – As with so many others, this post has moved me to tears. From getting to know you through your blog, and comments (and our emails), I am not surprised that you stepped in immediately to help others, ignoring your own injuries. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I am deeply moved.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Donna for your kind words. I didn’t mean to make anyone get teary, I was just recounting my story mainly to get it out!! I am very lucky to have the support around me now and consider myself fortunate to be where I am today. You are a part of that new circle and I thank you sincerely for every comment you make and all your positive encouragement. Much love ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  36. Thanks for sharing such a personal and life changing experience,Deb. These events affect our lives on so many different levels. We look back and see a lifetime of cause and effect stemming from one fateful event.It is a challenge to accept what has happened to us, forgive any circumstances caused the event or that fell short of helping us, forgive ourselves for what we perceive as shortcomings in our actions or emotions and move forward. I love your line ” This life is not for the faint-hearted. If we make it this far in life we are warriors. Champions of the human race. It is evident to me that even as a teenager you had a lion heart full of courage and compassion. When we were kids no one talked about PTSD but I am sure you and the others who survived suffered with this condition to some degree. Your personal story shows the strength of the human spirit. Thank you for sharing. Hugs and blessings for continued healing and acceptance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww Laura, your comment has made me teary – you’ve put it into such beautiful words. I don’t consider I have a lion heart but I know I am stronger as a result of the accident. I know some of the group have suffered PTSD and in some ways I probably have too. I really appreciate your thoughts and good wishes. It was very hard to write and read all the papers from back then. x

      Liked by 1 person

  37. That is some story and a tough experience to live with x I will never understand why tragedies are part of life or comprehend the extent of pain that people are capable of living with. Thank you for sharing xx

    Liked by 1 person

  38. I’ve just read this Deb and thank you for writing it. For me I was away in Canberra as I had been selected to go to RYLA ( Rotary Youth Leadership Award) . I never forget the leader who was a Salvation Army Captain coming in to get me and saying there was an important phone call from my mother. It was very unusual as we didn’t have any contact anyway on this camp. When I was told what had happened no one was really sure who was ok and who wasn’t. I felt numb, upset and confused. I felt guilty that I didn’t go for some reason and at the same time relief. Also apart from knowing it was a bus accident on a winding road and speculation about the driver drinking I didn’t know anymore details nor would I ever ask. That just wasn’t done. So thankyou for telling us what happened as I know it would have been horrendous to say the least but you did everything you could both you and Anne and indeed saved others in the process. Thankyou Debbie. Happy travels in May this year.
    Sally Bramley

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sally, it is lovely to hear from you and to hear your side of the story. I had no idea!! How awful for you finding out that way. It’s been hard to write it down but I’m so glad I’ve finally done it although I can’t believe it’s coming up to 40 years ago, can you? I was hardest going back to school but things were so different back then ad we just didn’t talk about things like they do today. Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment. xx


      1. Hi Debbie I also wanted to say congratulations on your blog! Great reading it and indeed it’s been nice to touch base again. I’m still busy at work. Peter has retired but so much still to do and yes where have those years gone. Blessings to you and your beautiful family xx

        Liked by 1 person

  39. Deb, I just want to hug you. I know how difficult this was for you to share and I’m glad you found the courage. You did it in your way and it took the amount of time it needed to take. Such a brave woman to not only help while you were injured but to realize that you needed to be there for the two who lost their siblings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Jennifer, I’ll take your hug and hug you back 🙂 I really didn’t feel brave at the time, we just did what we had to do, no fuss just get n with it. Maybe that’s just a sign of the times e were brought up in. I am glad you recognise how hard it was to write and I’m still a bit amazed that I’ve actually done it 🙂 Thanks again.xx

      Liked by 1 person

  40. Debbie, I’m not too sure if I can even respond adequately. The tears are thick in my eyes making it hard to see the screen. What you went through is totally as you said, surreal, and how you managed to get through this trauma is beyond me. Truly, I am SO sorry for your losses and the pain this has caused you. I too grew up in the era you did, and I understand that counseling back then was not even considered. May Kindness and Gentleness surround you and your family for the rest of your days. Much Love, Amy 💝

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Oh Debbie. Struggling to comment through the tears to be honest. You are so very brave. Not just on that night, but also for sharing your story with us. No 17 year old should go through what you went through. I feel so much for the families that lost their children in this awful accident. You have honoured them though by living your life to the full and continuing to travel. Not to mention by bringing three gorgeous girls into the world. I hope writing this has cleared things in your head a bit. Much love xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I didn’t mean to make anyone else cry!! I’ve done enough tears over the years. Thanks Hayley it probably has been one of the hardest post I’ve ever written. I truly appreciate your kind words and sentiments. It means a lot to me to have others read my words and understand the need for me to write them. Xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh please don’t worry. I’ll be fine after a bit of chocolate. I think I’ve made plenty of people cry before with a couple of my posts & always feel guilty. But I think people are just sorry you’ve been through something so horrific. You are a wonderful woman. Know that xx

        Liked by 1 person

  42. What a harrowing experience you all went through, Debbie, both physically and mentally. You certainly deserved that award too, despite being injured and traumatised yourself, you still went back to help others, and try to look after those who had tragically lost their siblings. It must still be hard for you to write about, but I appreciate you sharing your story with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Debbie – I’m not even sure what to say now, and I have got tears in my eyes. Back then counselling wasn’t really even a thing like it is now was it?! It was probably about 10 years later that 2 boys from my brother’s school (where mum also worked) were killed whilst on a skiing trip – nothing to do with the skiing, they were walking on a rooftop outside their hotel window at night…will never know full story. But there was minimal psychological support for students. It was the same at my school when in 1980 the brother of a girl in my girl was found to have killed himself in the school (he was 17) – these things never truly leave you. But….you’ve written this beautifully and I hope it proves to be a cathartic experience. are you happy for it to be shared?? C xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Claire, I’m sorry if this has upset you or brought up old memories for you. I feel for you. xx Of course it can be shared now! Just be aware that I haven’t done a pinnable graphic yet but I may do that later. Thanks for your lovely comment and for sharing your thoughts on these issues, it’s hard but I’m hoping by having it out there I’l feel a bit better. Take care and share away! x

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes I think we are more in tune with mental health issues these days. I could have reacted terribly differently afterwards but I had a solid family and my boyfriend’s support. Thanks again, I’ve now dded a pinnable graphic to the post.


  44. What an awful experience for you to have gone through Deb – I can understand why you would still have flashbacks and it must have been difficult to write this post. Sometimes though it can be a catharsis to put it all down and look back over it as an adult. I hope writing this helps you move on – and it’s shown me another side of you that is quite amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Leanne! I’m hoping that I can move on too having finally written it out. The podcast triggered my memory and got me going. And now I hear a bus has crashed in Canada! So sad.


  45. Well done on writing and sharing this I know it wouldn’t have been easy. There’s even details in here that I didn’t know and read it all with tears in my eyes. So brave Mum not just for going through it all but writing it down and even telling grandad to slow down! Xx

    Liked by 2 people

  46. Yes, tragic accidents never leave us. Isn’t it great that they recognised your bravery, Deb. I too was involved in a bus accident; this is why I do like heights as we went over a bank and all I remember is a damned nun sitting on my face. I was the only person with concussion.! Weird, and unlike yours, there were no casualties. The women in the car that the bus driver was trying to avoid hitting crashed into the other bank. I can sympathise with your fears; it took me years to sit on a bus without feeling the need to scream, I had to travel this way as I had no car! I was in my twenties. You were meant to do much more in life Deb, which you are doing in bucket loads 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s incredible Suz, we both suffered awful accidents at a youngish age. You were lucky in one way and unlucky in another- fancy a nun ending up on top of you 😊 I’m glad you can understand the fear still being there, I don’t think it will ever leave me. Thanks for your lovely comment, its much appreciated. It’s taken me ages to write this out and finally post it.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes I wondered about the lack of guilt for surviving but I’ve honestly never felt that. Maybe that’s where counselling might have taken me if I’d had it. I think I tried to use it as a positive to live a good life. I’m glad I’ve finally written it down too, I think you’re right I probably needed to do it. Thanks so much for your support. X

          Liked by 1 person

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