News in 5: Chilling text before limo crash; Indonesian trafficking risk; Dreamworld 'failure'.

-With AAP

1. Newlywed’s chilling last text before horror limo crash that killed 20.

Seventeen friends piled into a limousine on Saturday, bound for a birthday celebration at a brewery in upstate New York.

Shortly after, the limo crashed killing all 17 passengers, including two pairs of newlyweds, four sisters from one family and two brothers from another. The driver and two pedestrians also died in the accident.

It is the deadliest US transport crash in nearly a decade, according to federal authorities.

The Washington Post reported one of the victims involved in the crash told her cousin moments before the collision that the stretch limousine was in terrible condition.

Valerie Abeling’s 34-year-old niece, Erin McGowan, and her new husband, Shane McGowan, 30, were among the 20 people killed. The couple were married in June.

Just 20 minutes before the crash, Erin text her cousin, Abeling’s daughter, to say the limousine was in a “terrible condition”.

The New York Times reported she also text a friend about the vehicle’s condition and motor problems.

“The motor is making everyone deaf,” she said.

The limousine failed an inspection last month and its driver was not properly licensed, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said.

The company that owned the 2001 Ford Excursion stretch limo was being sent a cease and desist order to halt operations until the crash is investigated, Cuomo said at New York City’s Columbus Day Parade on Monday.


The NTSB, a federal agency, is investigating the crash and will look at the adequacy of regulations for limousines, whose passengers are not required to wear seat belts.

“I can tell you that wearing seat belts does save lives. Whether or not it would have made a difference here … remains to be seen,” Sumwalt said.

Sumwalt said most of the victims were found inside the vehicle following the crash and one or two victims may have been ejected. Investigators also plan to look into whether the design of the roadway was a factor in the crash.

The vehicle crashed after it ran a stop sign at a highway intersection in Schoharie, New York, about 65 km west of Albany, police and the NTSB said.

It crashed into an unoccupied parked car and hit two pedestrians before coming to a rest in a shallow ravine, officials said.

Investigators are working to determine the cause of the crash at a later time.

2. Man charged with murdering NSW mum near her five-month-old baby.


A man’s been charged with the murder a Wollongong mother whose body was found near her unharmed five-month-old baby at Bellambi last week.

Officers discovered 39-year-old Kristie Powell in her Bellambi house just after 1am on Friday with her baby boy nearby uninjured.

About 4pm on Monday, NSW police arrested a 29-year-old man in a building near Maitland Railway Station.

The man was taken to the local police station where detectives from Wollongong Police District have now charged him with one count of murder.

He has been refused bail to appear in Maitland Local Court today.

3. Indonesian children affected by the deadly tsunami are at risk of trafficking.


Children left homeless or orphaned after Sulawesi’s devastating tsunami are at risk of being preyed upon by child traffickers, an Australian aid agency warns.

World Vision is doing everything it can to stop any opportunistic predators, by educating parents and registering and tracking children in temporary shelter camps, chief executive Tim Costello says.

Families have been alerted to beware of potential ‘red flags’ such as relatives or friends from distant cities or villages offering to care for children.

“We have no doubt this awareness has certainly saved a number of kids,” Mr Costello told AAP from Indonesia on Monday.

“Most people show solidarity and decency, but a small number take advantage of chaos for their own personal evil.”


Mr Costello says aid organisations have learnt to set up prevention measures from the spike in trafficking incidents following the Boxing Day tsunami in Aceh in 2006.

World Vision has set up ‘child safety spaces’ near temporary camps in an effort to register, supervise and support children traumatised, first by an earthquake, then the tsunami and ongoing aftershocks.

“These spaces help provide reassurance you can trust the world, which is very hard when you can’t trust the very ground you stand on,” Mr Costello adds.

“Essentially it’s a place where parents don’t have to worry about the safety of their children, instead of leaving them out in the open and exposed to potential threats like child trafficking,” World Vision staffer Brianna Piazza says.

Adding to security concerns, hundreds of inmates have escaped a prison damaged in the twin disasters, and many remain on the run.

Meanwhile, World Vision’s hunt continues for hundreds of missing children sponsored by Australians through their organisation.

“Locals say a landslip led to a whole bunch of mud flowing through the area (in Jono Oge) , and we think there might potentially be dozens of children buried underneath the mud with their families,” Ms Piazza says.

Aid efforts are being spearheaded by the International Red Cross, who estimate up to a quarter of a million people have been left homeless by the disaster.

4. Dreamworld staffer admits the theme park suffered a “total failure”.


Dreamworld suffered a “total failure” to identify safety issues on the ill-fated Thunder River Rapids ride, an employee of the theme park has admitted.

Maintenance planner Grant Naumann conceded issues such as pinch points had been overlooked with the 30-year-old ride before a malfunction in October 2016 led to the deaths of four visitors.

Mr Naumann was one of three employees to testify as the inquest into the deaths of Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett and his partner Roozi Araghi resumed on Monday at the Southport Coroners Court.


Counsel assisting Ken Fleming QC asked Mr Naumann if there had been a “total failure by everybody” to identify risks with the ride.

“In hindsight, yes,” Mr Naumann replied after a long pause.

The fatal incident occurred after a water pump failed, dropping water levels and leaving a raft stranded on a conveyor belt.

Operators failed to shut down the conveyor belt before the raft containing the four victims collided with it, forcing both rafts to flip and the visitors to suffer fatal injuries in the ride’s machinery.

Mr Naumann had earlier said he believed some maintenance operations may have been deferred for budgetary reasons.

But he said he had never been told explicitly he could not attend to safety issues due to monetary factors.

The inquest also heard an emergency stop button on the main control panel of the ride was never checked by a maintenance supervisor.

“That button was not a part of our pre-operational checks,” maintenance supervisor Stephen Murphy said.

Mr Murphy also revealed senior management had altered a policy to allow a ride to break down three times in 24 hours before it was shut down.

“It was passed down from the management meeting that we would do it that way,” Mr Murphy said, adding he didn’t know when the order to extend it from two break downs in one day had been made, or why.


Dreamworld replaced the chain and several wooden planks on the conveyor during annual maintenance in April 2016, the inquest heard.

The inquest was also shown a work order from October 26, 2016 – the day after the tragedy – scheduling annual preventative maintenance on the Thunder River Rapids ride for 2017.

Mr Naumann said he did not know who had raised the work order.

Junior engineer Gen Cruz was appointed to undertake a safety and maintenance audit of every ride at the park but had not reviewed the Thunder River Rapids ride at the time of the tragedy.

He said the audit had been necessary due to a “lack of documentation and outdated maintenance program”.

Mr Cruz said because the Thunder River Rapids ride had been built in-house by the previous owners in the 1980s, it lacked things such as service bulletins for maintenance procedures.

The inquest continues on Tuesday.

5. Pinned down and flashed: Survey reveals horrifying extent of airline staff harassment.


Airline staff have been pinned down, flashed by passengers and subjected to degrading comments, according to a survey of cabin crew which found 65 per cent had been sexually harassed at work.

The survey of more than 400 workers, released by the Transport Workers Union on Monday, suggested half of the harassed crew members had been targeted on more than four occasions.

Four out of five harassed staffers say they were targeted by co-workers while three out of five experienced it from passengers.

“This really does lift the lid on a culture which cannot be allowed to persist in our Australian community,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

The union boss said workers had been pinned down and assaulted, flashed, touched on the groin and buttocks and subjected to highly-sexualised and degrading comments.

One respondent said a passenger exposed himself and asked for oral sex, while another said a captain made “disgusting remarks about my genitalia” in front of others.


“There is definitely a culture where crew and pilots think inappropriate comments and touching are OK,” one response said.

Almost 70 per cent of those who have been sexually harassed never reported an incident and, of those who did, 84 per cent weren’t satisfied with how it was handled.

“My complaint resulted in his protection and my dismissal,” one crew member said.

Another stated: “They did nothing other than have him phone me to apologise … he was promoted not long after.”

Affected crew members worked at all major airlines including Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar and Tigerair, according to the union.

A Qantas spokesman on Monday said the airline didn’t tolerate harassment and had clear processes for reporting and investigating claims.

“These processes have helped reveal behaviour that is simply not acceptable and we’ve taken action that has included terminating people’s employment,” the spokesman said in a statement.

AAP understands Qantas has sacked 12 people for workplace harassment over the past year.

A Virgin Australia spokesperson said it too had a zero-tolerance approach to inappropriate behaviour and the survey results were concerning.

“We expect our team members uphold the Virgin Australia Group values, behaviours, and code of conduct,” the spokesperson said.