A VICTIM of falling trees at Apollo Bay’s Marriner’s Falls says people campaigning for the Otways’ walk to reopen should reconsider the risk.
More than 150 Apollo Bay residents and visitors rallied at the entrance to the falls last month, calling for Parks Victoria to reopen the tourist attraction which had been closed as a safety precaution since 2011.
A tree fell on Cheltenham’s Joanna Mardjetko and her then partner Steven Muller at the falls in 2008, putting them in hospital and leading to an assessment and closure of the falls.
Ms Mardjetko said the incident was life changing for herself, Mr Muller and Mr Muller’s two daughters Zoe and Aimee.
“I’m still an avid lover of the bush and I understand the passion of the Apollo Bay residents but I think my perspective may be worthwhile for this debate,” Ms Mardjetko said.
“I was trapped under one of the trees, sustaining soft tissue damage to my leg which required years of physio and rehabilitation,” she said.
“I have a scar down my face but no ongoing trauma, but I believe Steve will endure the consequences of his injuries for the rest of his life.
“He had major traumatic brain injury and it was six months before he could go back to work,” she said.
“He had a shattered right arm, broken ribs, broken pelvis, smashed eye socket; he had to have surgery and was in an induced coma for a week.”
Ms Mardjetko said Zoe and Aimee, who were 10 and 12 at the time, received bravery awards after escaping the falling trees and going for help.
“They were highly traumatised but we were really lucky they found someone home because most of the houses in the area are holiday properties.
“They had to stretcher us out through river crossings and a fairly overgrown path and then even the technical aspect of the two helicopters landing in a small area of a paddock so we could get airlifted out.”
Ms Mardjetko praised their rescuers including Ambulance Victoria’s Wayne Malady and resident John Di Cecco who was home when Zoe and Aimee knocked on his door to raise the alarm.
“We are forever indebted to them for their efforts, I thought Steve was going to die,” she said.
“The ongoing recovery for all of us was a long, difficult journey which resulted in considerable change to our routines and endeavours, including the eventual end of our relationship as a couple, and substantial financial cost.
“I think it’s all about the risk and assessment and asking ‘is it really worth it to see a waterfall’.”
Ms Mardjetko said she believed Marriner’s Falls presented different risks to other bush walks, possibly because the gully created instability for tree roots, along with the river crossings which made emergency access difficult.
“It was really strange going into the gully that day, it was covered with fallen trees and I remember saying to Steve ‘it’s so remote I hope we don’t die here’.
“I know these things don’t happen all the time and it could have been much worse; it could have been the girls.
“But if this area is still deemed unsafe, then no amount of tourist revenue would justify the re-opening of the beautiful Marriner’s Falls,” Ms Mardjetko said.
“In this instance I don’t think Parks Victoria is being overly conscientious; if the experts say it’s dangerous, listen to them.”