The 75 biggest Gympie stories of 2019
FROM a historic Melbourne Cup win to a Devils junior making his NRL debut.
From heroes rescuing a man seconds before his ute exploded to a cow leading police on a Bruce Highway chase.
From builder collapses, drunken horseback joy rides, more crocodile sightings in the Mary River and everything in between, here are the biggest stories The Gympie Times brought to you through 2019.
1. Vow and Declare wins the 2019 Melbourne Cup – November 5
Gympie sporting history was made on Tuesday, November 5 when the all-Aussie horse with connections to the Gold City, Vow and Declare, stormed home to win the Melbourne Cup.
Two of the gelding’s 13 owners, Gympie State High School principal Anthony Lanskey and Gympie Regional Council deputy mayor/Gympie High teacher Bob Leitch, were at Flemington to cheer their golden boy home.
What followed was an afternoon of pandemonium, in which the Gold City once again grabbed national headlines.
2. Tino realises his NRL dream – July 4
Former Gympie Devils junior Tino Fa’asuamaleaui held the Gold City’s dreams on his shoulders when he ran out for his NRL debut as a member of the Melbourne Storm on July 4.
The 19-year-old hulk made a promising start to his pro career, tallying seven hit ups, 15 tackles and 84 run meters off the bench in the Storm’s 16-14 win over the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Tino would pull on the purple and gold jersey five times in 2019.
3. Seconds from death: Heroes rescue man before Ute explodes – October 4
AN ELDERLY man from Dalby was lucky to be alive thanks to the heroic efforts of bystanders who helped pull him from his burning vehicle, only seven seconds before it exploded on the Wide Bay Highway.
4. Flower loving steer leads police on highway chase – February 11
AN ESCAPED steer led police on a 30-minute chase through the streets of Gympie and on to the Bruce Highway after it broke free from a truck parked near the police station.
5. $10k horse taken on drunken joy ride into pub – February 11
A MOTHER and daughter were shocked to learn their horse that went missing at Saturday’s night’s rodeo was ridden into the Jockey Club Hotel in a drunken joy ride.
Louisa Corbet received anonymous footage of a man riding her family’s horse Max on the veranda of the Jockey Club Hotel, they learnt their quiet Max was the star of drunken prank at the nearby pub.
6. Gympie council reveals shock $11 million loss – November 25
A PROJECTED $1.3 million budget surplus turned into an $11 million nightmare for Gympie Regional Council last year, their latest annual report revealed late this year.
7. Gympie MMA star stuns opponent in 22-second show stopper – July 15
“IT is all over! Just. Like. That.”
Iconic commentator Mike Goldberg’s trademark phrase trumpeted possibly the greatest win of Arlene Blencowe’s MMA career over the weekend.
Gympie’s “Angerfist” stole the show at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Oklahoma on Friday night (Saturday morning in Australia), taking just 22 seconds of the opening round to demolish Amanda Bell with a flurry of brutal strikes.
8. Gympie Kayaker says Mary River crocodile followed him – February 15
A FRIGHTENED kayaker said he’ll “never go in the Mary River again” after he spotted what he thought was a saltwater crocodile lurking behind him near the Gympie Weir in February.
9. Recycled plastics give Kilkivan girl a hand – May 6
A KILKIVAN family’s dream became a reality much sooner than expected when 12-year-old Hailey Wright was fitted with a left hand – courtesy of Gympie/Sunshine Coast businessman Bernie Craven and his recycled, repurposed plastics.
10. Lightning rod Gympie council water report finally revealed – September 4
ENVIRONMENTAL breaches in 2015 and a lack of skilled staff were key reasons behind a controversial decision by Gympie Regional Council to overhaul its water and sewage business unit in 2016, a newly released report has revealed.
The report, released under the Right to Information Act along with accompanying documents, was produced by Aqua projects revealed multiple concerns about the business unit.
11. Gympie’s crucial role in bank Royal Commission – January 11
It was Gympie resident and Wide Bay federal MP Llew O’Brien who successfully pressured the federal government into holding the banking inquiry.
And then a Gympie-born lawyer made it happen.
12. $6M BUILDER COLLAPSE: Ex-wife labels claims ‘utter rubbish’ – February 2
ALLEGATIONS of embezzlement and insolvent trading were flagged as big reasons behind the collapse of Gympie builders Stirling Homes, which went under owing up to $6 million to more than 130 creditors.
Liquidator reports lodged with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission reveal Stirling Investments Qld and PRB Construction, each run by director Peter Ross Bazzan, had significant financial issues long before they were wound up last October.
Liquidator Gavin Moss said Stirling Investments may have been trading insolvent as early as June 30, 2016, and PRB Construction the year before that.
13. VIDEO: Vicious school attack caught on camera – February 12
A GRAPHIC video showing a vicious attack on a schoolboy at a Gympie high school has invoked a heated reaction on social media.
The video, which appears to be filmed on Gympie State High School grounds at an unknown time, shows a boy punching and pushing another boy repeatedly while a large group of high school kids watch on.
14. Lobby group tells why Gympie region is ‘perfect’ for nuclear – July 18
WOOLOOGA was named by an Australian independent lobby group as a highly prospective location for a nuclear power plant.
The western Gympie region was identified last week by the Australian Nuclear Association in a presentation as a possible home for one of 20 nuclear plants it hopes to build around the country.
15. Two accused of kicking defenceless man in ‘pack attack’ – December 17
A “pack of young men” almost kicked another man to death in Mary St on December 13, according to police allegations in Gympie Magistrates Court this month.
16. Losing Ashley: ‘I couldn’t bring my brother home’ – April 26
WHEN the sun set on this year’s Anzac Day, the nation tuned into the modern day war story of two young serving Gympie brothers – one who came home a war veteran and one who was tragically killed.
Dale Birt was the focus of a moving television piece on Channel 10’s The Project, where he opened up about losing his younger brother Corporal Ashley Birt.
17. Another year without answers into violent death of young mum – December 12
THE long-awaited and long-delayed coronial inquest into the death of young Wolvi mum Kirra McLoughlin will enter at least another year without any answers.
Kirra’s name was missing from the 10-page Coroners Court of Queensland inquest list for December, as it has been every month since the inquest was granted and announced in May.
18. ‘Her eyes were big black holes’: Heartbreak for Kirra’s mum – November 3
Alison Russell has always been a fighter, but every day is still a monstrous battle. She clings tightly to every special memory she has of her only child, a daughter named Kirra.
But every happy memory comes with what Alison calls a “tinge of blue”, because it’s been more than five years since Kirra McLoughlin was stolen away from her family, her life cut short in the cruellest sense at just 27.
19. Shock twist as missing man found on same boat after 13 hours – January 16
AFTER more than 13 hours of intensive, expensive search and rescue off Double Island Point yesterday, a 45-year-old Mooloolaba man thought to have fallen overboard from a commercial fishing boat was found safely tucked away on board.
20. Doting dad dies in brutal Gympie street stabbing – September 9
HE WAS a devoted father of five, a loving partner, a protective big brother and a mate who would do anything for anyone.
Tylor “TJ” Bell became the casualty of a brutal daylight Gympie street stabbing, passing away in hospital after he was savagely slashed through the chest and heart while waiting at a red light with his father on Father’s Day.
21. Gympie businesswoman’s inspirational story – June 15
On February 27th, Jessie McCubbin received news that would change her life – she has lupus.
There is no cure at this stage, so this is a condition she will likely have for the rest of her life.
But Jessie’s determination to push through and live her life as close to normal is truly admirable.
22. Devoted dad killed at Wolvi was a larrikin who loved fishing – January 23
WILLIAM James Bell (known as James) was a devoted father, grandfather, brother and friend who was adored by those who knew him.
But tragedy struck for the 59-year-old, who died on Tagigan Rd, Wolvi on January 10 as he returned from a fishing trip.
23. Wit-boooka sentence ends Gympie council fracas case – June 6
A DISTRICT Court judge sitting in Brisbane sentenced two of three people charged after lengthy court proceedings over an invasion of Gympie Regional Council’s Mary St offices on May 31, 2016.
24. First glimpse at Gympie’s new $30M ‘mega servo’ – December 5
Work is well under way in delivering the region’s 2020 gift – jobs.
They will be delivered with the multi-million Traveston Commercial Roadside Facility, a “mega servo” development with an estimated $10-30 million price tag.
25. ‘It doesn’t seem real’ – family’s grief after Tozer St fatal – July 4
TRIBUTES poured in for much-loved and well-respected Gympie man Noel Ormes, who died in a tragic workplace accident on Tozer St July 3.
26. Alleged woodchip murder: Witness heard screams of stop – October 30
GRUESOME details and confronting video evidence has emerged as two of the three Goomboorian woodchipper murder accused faced court in Gympie.
The three are accused of killing Nambour man Bruce Saunders and allegedly feeding him through a woodchipper at a Tinana Rd property at Goomboorian in November 2017.
27. CONSPIRACIES: Gympie’s former Hanson backers speak out – March 29
GYMPIE’S most prominent ex-One Nation backers rejected Pauline Hanson’s secretly recorded support for Port Arthur conspiracy theories.
28. Hero helpers rescue injured baby whale at Rainbow – August 19
AN INJURED baby whale owes its life to a group of Rainbow Beach residents who heroically winched it to safety after it was stranded more than 15m from the ocean.
29. Shocking attack: ‘Do you feel like you’re almost dead yet?’ – July 27
A GYMPIE region man will stay in jail until at least April 2021 after he severely bashed and choked his 19-year-old girlfriend until she turned blue in the face and started fitting.
Shaun Joseph Maudsley, 38, was on an “extraordinary cocktail of drugs” when he drove his victim to an isolated location near Cooroibah and continued an assault so severe that she lost several teeth.
30. How football helped save this Gympie boy’s life – June 29
Josh Hunt has faced health challenges hard enough to take the smile off any 12-year-old’s face, but the inspirational Gympie boy has tackled it all with the same toughness he shows on the footy field every week.
31. Devastating Round 1 KO in Gympie boxer’s title fight – June 13
His opponent had hundreds of bouts to his name before they made the long walk to the ring, but nothing was going to stop inspirational Gympie boxer Danny Hawkins realising his dream.
In front of a packed Caloundra RSL crowd, Hawkins took less than two minutes to knock out Chris Fox and claim the WBF World Masters Australian Title 83kg division by first round knockout.
32. Gympie student explains reason for school strike – February 27
St Patrick’s College graduate Shellie Joseph decided to take a stand on climate change, and the next month she stood united with her peers.
The 16-year-old led hundreds of her peers and like-minded community members on the “School Strike 4 Climate Australia” in unison with tens of thousands of others around the country on March 15.
33. Highway madness: Serial offenders putting us at risk – November 21
BAD drivers willing to engage in high-speed chases are plaguing the Bruce Highway, putting the community and police in danger.
Hundreds of drivers were caught in traffic on Wednesday after a dramatic take-down at Sippy Downs when an alleged offender crashed into a truck and was arrested at gunpoint after he fled from police at Gympie.
34. Gympie man who stabbed his best mate walks free – July 19
THE Gympie man who stabbed his best mate and left him lying in a pool of blood after a drunken stoush which first saw him taken to hospital walked free from court in July.
35. Hep C woman bites cop while trying to flee Gympie court – October 18
A FORMER ice user’s incurable disease became a potentially lethal weapon when she bit a police officer during a failed escape bid from Gympie Magistrates Court back in October.
36. Taps dry, locals in the dark as Goomeri crisis continues – August 26
AN ALREADY parched August took a turn for the worse at Goomeri, with bore failures forcing Gympie Regional Council to truck water in to keep the town afloat.
Goomeri reverted to receiving its daily water supply by bores in late October, while the trucks had stopped their deliveries a month earlier
37. Meet Gympie’s newly crowned princess – November 29
AFTER 12 months of placing her fate in the hands of a judging panel, Gympie’s Libby Corbet was crowned National Rodeo Association Junior Rodeo Princess for 2020.
The 12-year-old won the quest final last Saturday at the Caboolture rodeo after competing in quests and travelling around Queensland in preparation for the final series throughout the year.
38. Shot, run over, arrested: Crime spree’s chaotic end – July 10
CHAOS erupted on the Bruce Highway when a man led police on a massive police chase before crashing his car and attempting to flee the scene at Yandina.
39. Cooloola Cove family saving our oceans with recycled rubbish – May 25
Gympie Regional Council gave a Cooloola Cove family the chance to stop ocean pollution before it starts, by catching rubbish before it washes from streets and sports fields into creeks, the Mary River and ultimately the fishery and internationally protected wetlands of the Great Sandy Strait.
40. Axe falls on 20-year plan for major Gympie sport hub – June 24
GYMPIE gun club hopes for a regional shooting gallery have been shot down by Gympie Regional Council for being too expensive.
And it is not the just the long-awaited Curra state forest site which has been shelved.
41. ‘Desperate’ Gympie mum jailed for stealing $45k from boss – October 29
A GYMPIE woman of acknowledged “excellent character” went to jail today for a $45,000 fraud driven by poverty and desperation.
Mother of four, Jodianne Maree Kretschmer, 42, wept as she hugged family members before being led to the courthouse cells, before being taken to jail in Brisbane.
42. Gympie court: Triple child rapist, would-be killer walks – October 10
CONVICTED rapist, repeat child sex offender and would-be wife-killer, Ross William Thompson, was released from Gympie District Court – but didn’t quite walk free.
43. Police still on the hunt for gunman linked to highway siege – August 13
Police closed the Bruce Highway from Albert Park to Channon Street, also blocking Kidd Bridge access to the city in a tense afternoon search for a gunman who reportedly brandished his gun out a car window at The Palms.
44. Children threatened with machete in terrifying Gympie siege – August 2
POLICE charged two men following a siege in Gympie which saw them allegedly crash a vehicle in the front yard of a house on Louisa St before threatening the occupants with a tyre lever and machete.
45. Convicted rapist in court for creepy kiss at Gympie store – June 25
A CONVICTED rapist with a long history of assaulting women has been convicted of repeatedly kissing a 17-year-old girl at the Jones Hill Store without her consent.
46. Car ‘cut in half’ in Gympie crash – December 7
A CAR was “cut in half” in a two-vehicle crash at the Stewart Terrace-Horseshoe Bend intersection in Gympie on the afternoon of December 7th.
47. Prime suspect named in Gympie road death inquest – March 15
THE man named as a prime police suspect in the hit-run death of Gympie cyclist Brad Edwards nearly 20 years ago told a Gympie inquest he does not recall most of that time of his life.
48. Business leaders ‘blindsided’ by Teewah proposal – September 6
Prominent business leaders in the town said there had been a distinct lack of consultation about the proposal to cut the number of camping permits from 2300 to 1150 and cap the number of trips at 250 a day from the Noosa end of the beach.
49. Department to investigate online school threats – May 7
SHOCKING video capturing another Gympie schoolyard fight that left one student unconscious and a teacher injured emerged on social media.
50. Warren becomes first female president of Gympie Cats – November 7
Ann-Marie Warren made a different kind of Gympie sporting history in November when she became the first woman to be elected president of the Gympie Cats, taking the reins from Jason Bromilow.
51. Prominent Gympie equestrian identity and businesswoman dies – October 7
The community reacted with shock and sadness when Gympie equestrian identity and businesswoman Madonna Hedberg died at the age of 63 in October.
Her husband, businessman and former Gympie Show Society president Lars Hedberg, travelled to Brisbane today to see her parents who were, he said, “just devastated.”
52. Don’t blame the dingoes, blame their human management – March 3
EVERY Fraser Island dingo that is killed and every tourist who suffers even an imagined threat, let alone an attack, provides a reason for removing the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service from any position of authority on Fraser Island, wrote Arthur Gorrie in March.
53. Elderly targeted in fake-tradie brothers’ $70,000 scam – December 17
TWO fake tradie brothers who scammed elderly, vulnerable people out of almost $70,000 had nothing to say to their victims as each walked from court.
Reenarto Caston, 26, was sentenced to three years’ jail, suspended for five years after the time he had already served.
Charles Caston, 29, was sentenced to two years’ and nine months’ jail, and ordered to pay $1500 restitution to the woman he stole from by December next year.
54. Man who rode stolen horse into Gympie pub sentenced – July 17
RIDING a stolen horse into the Jockey Club Hotel was the least of the crimes committed on February 9 by a young man who later punched someone he did not know, for no reason other than mistaken identity.
Ironically, the severe and traumatic facial injuries suffered by the victim appeared to provide the only circumstance that kept Matthew Lawrence Grimstone out of jail, when the then 23-year-old appeared in Gympie Magistrates Court yesterday.
55. ‘She had a full life for her 27 years, 3 months and 15 days’ – June 14
Jackie Moonie says her daughter Kirsty saved her life and her soul and was the strong one in their relationship.
And then suddenly, in her 20s, Kirsty was gone, her life taken in a rear-end collision at Six Mile.
56. Tristan blows recovery out of the water – March 21
INJURED teen Tristan Sik, whose family was told by doctors less than two years ago he had no future, spent his 15th year doing what he’s done since his near-fatal accident – proving everyone wrong and leaping recovery milestones.
57. Injured Keeffe plays game of his life in miracle AFL return – March 26
A knee injury, an unlikely return to the field and a three-goal performance up forward combined to make one of the most memorable days in Gympie-turned-GWS Giants big man Lachlan Keeffe’s AFL career against Essendon in Round 1.
58. Talking mental health is hard, but don’t let the fear win – September 12
Gympie Times journo opens up on his experiences with mental health in the spirit of R U OK? Day.
“Talking can get rid of so much weight, and make things seem so much clearer. Please, if you even slightly feel like you need to, don’t let the fear stop you.”
59. Spitting, stalking neighbour from hell released on parole – September 25
A MARY Valley father who stalked his 67-year-old neighbour, spat in her face and called her a string of vile names over four months of shocking offending.
60. School employee accessed 72 child porn files – December 3
A GYMPIE region man’s career in the education system came to an end in Gympie District Court yesterday, when he was sentenced for accessing internet child pornography.
Computer technician Ryan Daniel Hodge, described only as having worked for “a local high school,” pleaded guilty to offences between February 12 and July 19 last year.
61. Gympie heroes relive moment they pulled man from fiery car – August 26
Gympie plumbers Mark Stewart and his apprentice Will Lewis were awarded a Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner’s Certificate for their efforts in a Gympie ceremony, alongside witness Alan Girdler and Gympie police officers Sonny Mayo and Jeremy Gardiol.
62. Teen‘s ‘sadistic laugh’ during housemate stabbing – December 7
A GYMPIE teenager told his victim “I’ve got you, you c***” and laughed “sadistically” after stabbing him with a paring knife and sending blood gushing from his chest, the Gympie District Court heard this month.
63. Baker Boy performs at Health Check Day in Gympie – May 11
JONES HILL State School was packed to the rafters on a sunny Saturday afternoon for Well Person’s Health Check Day, which featured a headline performance from popular young artist and 2019 Young Australian of the Year Baker Boy.
64. Uber driver reveals the real story behind Uber in Gympie – June 21
A Gympie Uber driver, who wished to remain anonymous, finally set the record straight on the great unknown of the ridesharing giant’s operations in the Gold City.
65. ‘F--- off you c---’: Masked gunmen still on run in Gympie – October 31
The hunt continued next day for the perpetrator of a gunshot fired near a block of Gympie units in the early hours of October 30.
66. 3 children hurt as car almost crashes into pub – October 24
Three children and one adult were taken to hospital in a stable condition after a two-vehicle crash on Mount Pleasant Road saw the cars involved narrowly miss the local pub.
67. Gympie basketballer prepares to make impact in USA – November 28
Gympie young gun Brandon Albrecht found out in April he was headed to America, and after months of gruelling training the time has arrived for him to jet off to get a taste of the next level last month.
68. Valley saviour Peter Garrett was a ‘decent, honest’ minister – November 9
PETER Garrett’s commonwealth driver obligingly turned up the music as he drove the then federal Environment Minister back to Brisbane airport on November 11, 2009.
The minister had just made what a Melbourne newspaper called “the biggest decision by an environment minister in ten years of national environment law.”
He had just stopped the Traveston Crossing dam and saved the Mary Valley.
69. REVEALED: Gympie second-worst region in state for damage – October 11
Last year the Gympie region was smashed by a storm cell that caused mass devastation and helped to propel the region into the second spot of a notorious list – the Suncorp claims hotspot.
70. Cars and cows crash in Mary Valley – May 9
A SECOND crash involving a car and a cow ended in another lucky escape for five people on a Mary Valley road on May 9.
A man was injured when a 700kg bull flattened a car at Imbil early that morning.
71. We look back at our 19 Gympie Players of the Week – December 15
THROUGHOUT the year The Gympie Times celebrated our top sporting achievements each week in crowning one athlete as Player of the Week.
Revisit every athlete we profiled, and our eventual winner Allie Salter.
72. 2019 POWER 30: Gympie region’s most influential people #1-30
Once again, an impressive list of local movers and shakers made it on to our 2019 list of the Gympie region’s 30 Most Influential people.
73. 320 stunning graduates from Gympie’s 7 school formals – November 16
It was a beautiful, unforgettable moment for each of Gympie’s 2019 high school graduates, and we were there to capture all the glamour.
74. Paranormal activity inside The Gympie Times office? – October 31
IF YOU asked every single Gympie region resident, most would have one or two or twenty ghost stories to tell you.
But are there ghosts within the walls of our office? We decided cap Halloween by trying to find out.
75. 3 Gympie newbies take on the creepy Love Tunnel walk – January 27
MAKING the journey through Gympie’s famous “love tunnel” sounded eerily similar to getting lost deep within the Black Hills of Burkittsville, Maryland on the lookout for the Blair Witch – but we did it anyway.