Michael Gorey

It was a Wednesday, 22nd May 1991 in Mount Isa. My partner, Michael ‘Mick’, was an apprentice boilermaker for a contracting firm to Mount Isa Mines. On this day, I was on my lunch break at 11:00 am from my workplace. I was standing in queue at the C.B.A., when in ran the receptionist from my workplace yelling for me to come back quickly to work. With fear in her eyes, and a trembling tone, I knew something was wrong. With no hesitation I ran alongside her, on the way asking, What’s wrong? What is happening? As we approached the entrance to my workplace, outside stood two police officers – one male, one female – and my partner’s work boss. I felt a sudden rush of panic. As I approached them, and caught my breath, I asked, What’s wrong? Mick’s boss replied, There’s been an accident, involving Mick. I asked if Mick was OK. The reply was that he was fatally injured. In shock, I again asked, Is he OK? The female police officer suggested we get off the footpath and go inside to sit down. It was there the police officers explained to me what had happened. At approximately 10:00 am, on site at Mount Isa Mines, Mick had fallen to his death. He, and a workmate, had been working on top of the Mullock bin. They were both positioned on four unsecured acrow planks, which spanned the discharge opening. These planks dislodged as a piece of floor plate, they were holding on to, was cut free in an effort for it not to fall into the bin. Mick fell through the gap the planks had formed – momentarily holding the conveyor stop line – until losing his grip and falling 26 metres to his death at the bottom of the empty bin in the western discharge shute. His workmate landed, spreadeagled across the dislodged planks, and managed to get clear of falling through the same gap.

This day continued as a living nightmare. Neither Mick, nor myself, had family in Mount Isa. We had both come from South Australia and had been working/travelling in Queensland for a few years. The police suggested I arrange for a friend to accompany me to the Mount Isa Base Hospital morgue to identify his body, as I was Mick’s next of kin. This I did; and I am forever grateful for a continued friendship to this very day, thank you Keisteen. Never, ever, would I have thought – after kissing Mick goodbye that morning and dropping him off to work – that the next kiss would be early that afternoon in a morgue. It was almost two weeks before his funeral took place, due to the time it took to release his body from autopsy results and to return his body back to his home town in South Australia which is now his final resting place.

I returned to Mount Isa a few weeks after Mick’s funeral and after spending time with his family.

I recall leaving Mick’s work clothes on the line for weeks after my return, thinking to myself that maybe it was all a bad dream and that Mick would come home from work any day soon.

The days turned into weeks and weeks into months. The legalities, inquest etc, were emotionally draining and time consuming. It wasn’t long before I found myself quite ill with pneumonia, as a complication from contracting chicken pox – of all things – which I didn’t have as a child. During this unforeseen absence from work, I learned I had been fired! At the time, this was a kick in the guts! Not wanting to leave Mount Isa until all proceedings were finalised, I picked up a casual job and, by year’s end, had met my now husband of almost 20 years.

Mount Isa will always be my ‘lost and found’ story.

Never a day goes by where Mick is not in my thoughts. Forever in my heart xo.

Twenty-four years have gone by, but the sudden loss of a loved one – during a typical day at work – will haunt me for the rest of my life.

RIP Michael John Gorey

20 October 1966 – 22 May 1991

Please … look out for your mates and stay safe at work … every day … always!

Sonya Elmes

Sonya and Michael