FLASHBACK GALLERY: 10 years ago in the Illawarra

Ten years ago, a well-known Wollongong businessman died when he fell 9m into an empty tank at the Port Kembla Sewage Treatment Plant.

Deputy State Coroner Carl Milanovich found the death of Ron Tabak on February 10, 2004, was a "tragic and avoidable" accident which occurred because he was diligent about the safety of others.

The Berkeley man had been preparing a quote to line the tank and returned to the top of the tank to reposition the covers over access holes. 

"Mr Tabak died because he was doing the right thing in relation to other workers that he envisaged might enter the site," Mr Milanovich said.

The coroner's findings at the inquest into Mr Tabak's death included only a single recommendation - for WorkCover to develop a safety guideline to prevent similar accidents. Mr Milanovich found that when the accident occurred, the plant was not properly supervised and not safe.

Following the tragedy, the NSW Ambulance Service and NSW Police conducted critical internal reviews. Police stepped up rescue training and added equipment to rescue trucks, including a concrete drill. The Ambulance Service produced a two volume report with 43 recommendations for change. Among the changes, the Illawarra-based CHC rescue helicopter was staffed with a doctor.

Click here for pictures from January 2004

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