ROYAL ADELAIDE HOSPITAL CONSTRUCTION SITE INCIDENT
FEBRUARY 15, 2017
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:57): I rise today to speak on the topic of justice for Jorge Castillo-Riffo. I rise in the week that the case to investigate the death of Mr Castillo-Riffo, who was 54 when he was fatally crushed on the new Royal Adelaide Hospital construction site while working on a scissor lift. Today, his widow, Pamela Gurner-Hall, stood on the steps of this place at lunchtime and read out these words:
The death of Jorge has left a great and vast void in my life and those of many others; his children, his grandchildren, aunts, uncles and cousins whom he grew up with, friends he met along the journey of his life, some new and others of his lifetime, those that shared his world of work too. It is a void difficult to describe in dimension.
There are others who unconsciously are affected, those whom he would have met, could have made friends with, could have helped, could have cherished and been cherished by. At age 54 he had much more of life to live. He was such a charismatic and dynamic personality, utterly authentic and strong in his convictions. Few forgot meeting Jorge.
One of Jorge's biggest frustrations was people who 'don't care'. He would come home from work and rave about this person or that who either demonstrated or actually said 'I don't care' often when Jorge was castigating them about some safety breach, possible risk or outright dangerous thing.
He was 'eagle eyed' when it came to safety and was naturally a cautious person. He watched out for everyone and was at times so outspoken he would be overlooked for re employment in an industry that doesn't like being reminded of the risks.
He liked his workmates too, in the main, and he enjoyed the satisfaction of completing tasks and projects. He would step up for those around him that he felt were being bullied, or persecuted or harassed in some way, the younger workers, the refugees, those who could not speak the language well or that he felt just needed a bit of friendship and support.
Nearly 500 people attended his funeral.
He died. He died in a scissor lift with his head trapped up against the ceiling. No one will ever know how long he remained conscious or what his last thoughts were or how much pain or fear he was registering. No one saw him. No one watched out for him and for a good while in the business of a new day and work to be done, no one cared.
In the tumult that followed, many did, but it was too late. His words echo in my head and the vision of him imagined or real is my horror.
The little things are the things I miss the most. At first, the sound of the door on the garage, I would wait for it. I would wait and wait and wait. The sound of him working around the yard, talking to his beloved little pet parrot, a kiss while I'm making dinner, the kiss goodbye in the morning, the soft words, light in his eyes and huge big smile. The love. He was a great dancer and he would dance around the house in a towel after his shower! I even miss the harsh words, the strong disapproving looks, the things of relationship and everyday life.
I am forever imprinted by his presence and his loss. I think that life takes us along a road whether we are ready or not and I feel like I am learning a new language and am not very good at it yet. I will love and miss him for my lifetime.
The closest thing to justice for Jorge is transparency of what happened, clarity as to how it happened, accountability for what went so very wrong, and legacy to ensure it never happens again and others learn and teach from it.
Those are the words of his widow, Pamela Gurner-Hall, written on 2 February 2017—not written for the speech she made today on the steps of Parliament House but read out today because they were the words she was prepared to say this week as her impact statement in the investigation of his death. We woke up to read in our Saturday newspaper that this investigation had been dropped; a trial due to start this Monday after 27 months of investigation was dropped last Friday.
His widow was told this was due to the witnesses not being appropriate; indeed, told that some of the professional expert witnesses were deemed to be, evidently, not professional and other witnesses to be unreliable. As she shared with us today on those steps, she will not be dropping this. She will seek justice for Jorge and, unlike those people who annoyed Jorge, we should care. We should not look away and we should support her calls for a Coroner's inquiry at the very least and ask the question why this case was dropped after 27 months of investigation, just days before a 10-day trial was due to start. It is not good enough that we will never know what happened to Jorge.