London Bridge collapse survivor relives fateful day

DAVE Darrington assured his cousin Kelly rocks falling into the ocean at iconic landmark London Bridge was perfectly normal.

“We were the only ones there and Kelly and I stood in the middle, as everyone did,” he said. 

‘‘She asked if it was safe and I said ‘don’t be stupid, it’s been here for thousands of years. 

‘‘We did what most tourists did, we took a photo and had a look around.”

To illustrate his point, Mr Darrington, 52, even jumped up and down on the natural bridge in the Port Campbell National Park. 

Kelly became alarmed when she noticed small rocks falling and said “it might fall down”.

“I said ‘no, bits and pieces must fall off’,” Mr Darrington said.

The next thing he remembers is “it just went bang”.

Mr Darrington described the sound of the collapse as like a tree cracking in half.

“We took off into the middle of what is now the island,” he said.

Fear set in for Mr Darrington, who said his first thought was the possibility that the splash caused by the rock falling into the ocean would be strong enough to wash them off the remaining stack.

Mr Darrington said the pair were the only ones at the icon, apart from their friend Jan, who had decided not to cross the bridge and was asleep in the back of their car.

He recalled that Kelly said to him: “Do you think we’re going to get in trouble for this?”

Mr Darrington continued to take photographs and about 10 minutes later a group of people arrived.

“A couple of cars pulled up and we had to call out to them to stop (from crossing the bridge),” he said.

‘‘We had to yell because the wind was against our voices.”

Mr Darrington said one of the cars pulled away to seek help.

The collapse occurred about 3.30pm on January 15, 1990.

Earlier this year, Mr Darrington returned to the icon for the first time since he and Kelly were rescued via helicopter to share his story for the National Geographic Channel’s six-part series, Life on the Edge.

He is now a tour co-ordinator in the Kakadu National Park, in the Northern Territory.

He said the return to London Bridge was very emotional.

“When they first walked me up there, to know that I was the last, or second last, person to walk across that was an amazing feeling,” he said.

Mr Darrington recalled the pair passed the time by singing the verses they knew of London Bridge is Falling Down and taking in their surrounds.

They weren’t rescued until three hours later because a helicopter had to fly from Melbourne.

“Apparently the closest one was broken or out on a job so the helicopter came from Melbourne,” Mr Darrington said.

He said that despite being cold in the shorts and T-shirt he was wearing, the time flew by.

When the pair was finally rescued, a crowd of hundreds had gathered.

“I think what stands out the most was the amazing amount of cheers and clapping and whistling when we landed on the other side,” Mr Darrington told The Standard.

Mr Darrington said he was not fearful during the ordeal.

However, he said the pair realised how lucky they were when they saw the photos he had taken of the collapse.

“Once we saw the photos we realised we came within three minutes of death,” he said.

Mr Darrington said it was remarkable how many people remembered the collapse.

Life on the Edge: Victoria’s Shipwreck Coast will air on the National Geographic Channel tomorrow at 7.30pm.  

mpatterson@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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