'Life has changed': Husband loses wife in workplace accident

FOND MEMORIES: Denise and Gary Chapman.
FOND MEMORIES: Denise and Gary Chapman. Facebook

MACKAY Sugar worker Gary Chapman lost his wife and coworker in a tragic workplace accident that has devastated a family, business and community.

Locomotive assistant Denise Chapman had been working at the end of the train during the shunting process at Marian on Tuesday when she was crushed between two empty cane bins.

Emergency services rushed to McGregor Creek Rd, north of Mirani, about 10.20am but there was little they could do.

The 62-year-old loved garage sales and loved her lights.

So that night, Gary went into their backyard, turned all the lights on and sat there.

"Life has changed," he said, on Thursday.

"We've got a Christian faith so that's the main thing. I know where she is and that's the best thing."

Gary was on shift too, when the accident happened.

"They have a procedure there on the locos that say emergency, emergency emergency and everybody becomes quiet.

"No one is allowed to have any radio contact then.

"My driver recognised the other driver's voice and said 'that's so-and-so and Denise's loco'."

At that point he just thought it was a minor accident - but when he found out, he ran "outside and had a bit of a yelp".


Denise Chapman.
Denise Chapman. Contributed

Gary met Denise, who was two years younger, when they were growing up in Port Fairy, off the coast of Victoria.

They eventually got together on New Year's Eve and married young, starting a family soon after.

"Neasy" as Gary referred to her, was a "different kettle of fish".

"She was a loving person. (She) just loved everybody, loved her nieces, loved her nephews did everything for the kids."

He has felt tragedy before; sadly, their son passed away from cancer at just 12.

But this time it's different.

"It's the shock more than anything because when you have an accident you don't get to say goodbye.

"In 1988 we lost a son to cancer, but we knew he was going to go.

"But with this one, that's it. The shock of it...telling your family, telling your daughters, your mother-in-law."

But, life continued on then, and it will again now.

There will be ups and downs, and life will certainly be different, he said.

"We were supposed to head off and take my two grandsons on a road trip as soon as they finished school," Gary said.

On the day of the accident, Denise posted her final words to Facebook - it was a photograph of the river at Port Fairy - the destination of their road trip.

A trip they do often will certainly be different without Neasy, Gary said, so too will the cruise and a trip to America they had planned.

In 1981 they moved to Mackay "just for five years" but they've never left. The support in the wake of Denise's death has moved the family.

"We've been here a long time, we have been involved with different people, different churches. We've seen kids grow up and have families of their own and (they've remembered) Denise from when they were kids."

Denise's funeral is expected to be held next week. Workplace Health and Safety is investigating the incident.

Topics:  denise chapman editors picks mackay mackay sugar workplace accident

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