ABC investigative reporter Caro Meldrum-Hanna, who last captivated viewers with Exposed: The Case of Keli Lane, now turns her attention to a long-forgotten fire at Sydney’s Luna Park in 1979.
Seven people, one man and six boys, perished in a fire at the Ghost Train which authorities attributed to an electrical wiring fault.
But in her new three part series Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire, questions will be raised about whether arson was the cause. If so, who was to blame and why was it kept from families?
To tell her tale (only episode 1 was available for preview), Meldrum-Hanna recounts that fateful night on 9th June 1979. At the centre of the story are the victims seeking a night of excitement and spooky thrills.
Amongst the victims were four high school students from Waverley College. Jonathan Billings (13), Richard Carroll (13), Michael Johnson (13) and Seamus Rahilly (13) were known as the “four amigos” tragically out for their first night on the town together.
Friend Jason Holman was a year below the inseparable friends but joined them that night in Sydney. He was spared a ride to his death by a quick-thinking ride attendant. In this documentary he details the events of that night and the memories that haunt him.
“Why did I survive? Why Me?” asks Jason.
Elderly parents of the boys tell Meldrum-Hanna they are still living with guilt four decades later.
Jenny Godson, the widow of John Godson (29) and mother to sons, Damien (6) and Craig (4), was also there when her family perished in the inferno -only missing the ride for herself by purchasing ice-creams instead.
“I want to know how they died. I want to know the truth about everything,” she says.
There are also interviews from former Luna Park staff, emergency workers, and patrons, painstakingly painting a picture of the circumstances surrounding the fire. Meldrum-Hanna is thankful to draw upon a mountain of documents, taped interviews and plans archived by the late artist Martin Sharp -who was convinced authorities were concealing a secret.
“We weren’t told anything,” recalls one father.
“It was like an atomic bomb,” one witness adds.
“They should have got out. Nobody should have died,” says one fire fighter.
The stories are heartbreaking and confronting, with cameras capturing raw emotion whether as survivors recall emotional stories or as an embedded Meldrum-Hanna is shocked from what she hears.
No review would be complete without mention of the amazing recreation by ABC of the ghost train itself. This is a documentary after all, it requires vision to tell its story. You’ll be convinced a ghost train was torched in order to forensically bring this story to screen.
Two years in the making, this is must-see TV.
Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire 8:30pm tonight on ABC.