POLICEMEN carried a padlocked drum of radioactive material into shade of trees and covered it with a tarpaulin to keep the life-threatening material from leaking 32 years ago.
One of those officers, Senior Constable Terry Clifton, remembers being “absolutely soaked” in the now banned pesticide DDT as he helped bury the powdered substance on the roadside of the Pacific Highway.
“That’s what they did at the time,” Mr Clifton said of the disposal of chemicals.
After spending eight hours on site, he was vomiting and dizzy, and checked himself into hospital that night.
“Medical staff told me to go for a swim then rest,” Mr Clifton said.
After the accident on
“I’m very much opposed to the transfer of nuclear material by road, particularly when this accident demonstrated that this method of transport is not safe,” Mr Yates said at the time. “But I’m just as upset to learn that not only were there highly dangerous radioactive substances, the chemicals and food together in the one load, but that the ruptured containers and the food were put back on the truck and taken to Brisbane.”
Mr Yates voiced concern that Mr Clifton and Senior Constable Bob Deards were not tested for radioactive or other poisoning even though they had suffered for days after the incident.
Mr Clifton was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy last year, a condition medical experts have attributed to exposure to large amounts of a poison such as DDT.
Now retired, the 61-year-old says his involvement with the clean-up of the fatal accident lead to his forced exit from the police force.
Mr Clifton spoke out in the media against NSW Police because of its refusal to compensate him for medical conditions he incurred from handling DDT.
“I took two years off and then tried to get back into the police force in 1982, but the police doctor gave evidence that I was not suitable as a result of the accident,” he said. Mr Clifton later came across the doctor and confronted him about giving the evidence.
“He told me he was harassed by Port Macquarie detectives to give evidence against me,” the policeman of 14 years said.
Mr Clifton was highly regarded in the force before the accident, awarded service medals and certificates of excellence over the years.