He was the mayor of a small town who had to deal with 15 dead backpackers and their grieving families. Now Bill Trevor tells of the toll it had on him.
He was the mayor of a small town who had to deal with 15 dead backpackers and their grieving families. Now Bill Trevor tells of the toll it had on him.

Why we had to rebuild hostel of ‘nightmares’

BILL Trevor sleeps only in small two-hour blocks since the Childers backpackers tragedy.

But the former Isis Mayor, who tries not to dwell on his imposition, says the toll taken on the town is immeasurable.

June 23 - the day 15 backpackers died in the Palace fire - will forever be a dark day for Childers.

"I've never slept after the Palace like I did before the Palace," Trevor told The Courier-Mail.

"I sleep in bits of two and three hours. Then I'm awake and I can't sleep.

"The nightmares are still there at times but I'm proud what we've been able to achieve (with rebuilding the Palace and setting up a memorial)," he said.

As the town's figurehead Trevor was a point of contact for many families.

Bill Trevor
Bill Trevor

"I can remember people coming just after the fire to see where their children had been, both mothers and families of survivors, collapsing on the footpath and being taken to hospital," he said.

Trevor said he also received hate mail from a family member overseas who later apologised in town before the memorial opening.

He said he had a 17-year-old in the Blue Mountains and a 19-year-old in university in Brisbane at the time.

"I could empathise with parents having their children away from them," Trevor said.

"I lost a brother in his early 20s to tragic circumstances (to suicide) and I know what effect that had on my mum and dad.

"So I have an understanding how all those families feel. And as parents the loss of my brother never, ever, ever left my parents. It's not something you expect to see -- your children die before you."

When the Palace burnt down the council decided to rebuild. Not everyone agreed but Trevor said it had to be done.

Isis Mayor Bill Trevor attends the demolition of Palace Backpacker Hostel. Pic David Sproule.
Isis Mayor Bill Trevor attends the demolition of Palace Backpacker Hostel. Pic David Sproule.

"If you drive through Childers we have a very historic main street," Trevor said.

"If you just took the Palace it would have made that very, very different to what it is now."

He has a range of emotions from proud to angry when he walks past the building.

"Very, very angry when I think about how Robert Long deliberately set the fire, how many people lost their life and how many people barely got out by the skin of their teeth," Trevor said.

"We could have been looking at scores and scores of people dead because of his actions."

Originally published as Why we had to rebuild hostel of 'nightmares'



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