Nelani Koefer
Nelani Koefer Photo supplied

One year on: 'I'm lost without Nelani'

AS sunlight streaks across the calm waters of the Mackenzie River this Sunday, its dipping rays will halo a pink cross erected in memory of Nelani Ciara Koefer.

In the year that has passed since the four-year-old was swept to her death when a fabridam on the Bedford Weir collapsed and inundated the river below, it is the first time Amy Koefer has had the courage to return to mourn the heartbreaking loss of her only child.
Amy, her parents Mick and Deb Koefer, family and close friends will clasp hands, and through the tears and laughter, let their little angel know she’s forever loved.

“I haven’t been out to the weir, I haven’t wanted to and it’s going to be a hard day, but I want to put up a cross for Bub.”

Soon then it’s time to fly, with plans for Mick and Amy’s new partner Ted to skydive and sprinkle Nelani’s ashes in the ocean.

Amy, whose chrysoprase green eyes slowly begin to fill with tears, says life without Nelani has left a void she’s at a loss to fill.

“I’m lost,” the 25-year-old told the Blackwater Herald as she sat on the veranda of her parents’ Taurus Street home.

“I don’t know what to do from day to day.

“The whole routine of getting up, getting breakfast ready, bathing and getting dressed – it’s not there any more.

“I’ve got more than enough time to do what I have to do in a day, which is also hard if I don’t keep myself busy.”

One year on, the days are no easier to face and neither are the nights without Bubby to play giggle games, kiss and cuddle and tuck into bed.

“It just gets harder,” says Amy plaintively.

“Sometimes, it’s just… especially I don’t know with a lot of other people, but I get a lot of bad flashbacks, like really bad flashbacks and anxiety attacks.

“I did see a counsellor but the first thing she told me was she felt silence was the best policy, and you’ll speak when you’re ready.

“I walked out.

“I’m stronger than that. For God’s sake, I was in the water.

“I got out to find Bub but it didn’t happen.”

She still can’t talk about that day and the scar it’s left on her heart.

It’s all too raw; the powerful surge of images and emotions too much to give a voice to that won’t break.

There were so many moments of pure joy with Nelani.

The gorgeous coppery-curled dancer, singer, bringer of light to all who knew her; the angel who radiated the essence of her middle name, Ciara.

Her spirit is forever with Amy.

“We went to mum’s 50th birthday party and the bed was made up before we left, with the doona pulled over,” says Amy, softly.

“We got home and went to jump into bed and Bubby’s jumpsuit was on my side of the bed, her jumpsuit from when she was a baby was under the doona.

“… It was kept in the cupboard.

“She is here with us. It’s not something I feel all the time, but I get it, and that’s good enough for me.

“I wish I could have her with me now, rather than just feeling her inside.”

Amy couldn’t stay in Blackwater. She’s now in Gracemere, but even there she can’t find the anonymity she craves.

“I just had to move, head to start fresh,” she reasons.

“I can’t be living in Blackwater, there’s too many memories; I just couldn’t handle it.”

She credits Ted for giving her the strength of purpose to carry on every day.

“Without the love and constant support from my partner I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have now,” she says.

“He is my rock, my strength and gives me the hope and fight to keep going... without him I wouldn’t be this strong.”

A Workplace Health and Safety investigation into the collapse of the inflatable rubber fabridam is ongoing.

The report will be sent to the Queensland Coroner who will rule on an inquest.

The drawn-out process is frustrating for Amy and her family, but they’re prepared to bunker down for the long haul if it means they will get answers.

And it’s answers they want.

“We still haven’t heard anything,” says Amy with a shake of her head.

“Apparently there’s still two years of inquests to be heard in the state, so we’re in the queue pretty much.

“If there’s an inquest, I’ll go. I don’t care how hard it is for me, I’ll go,” she says, with those crystalline eyes starting to flash steel.

“It’s something I have to do; it’s my little girl.

“I was strong for her when she was here, so there’s no reason why I can’t be as strong now… I have to be.

“We’ll get them. I’m pretty confident we’ll get the answers we need.

“She was a bright, beautiful, intelligent little girl, and we’ll get to the bottom of it if it’s the last thing I do.”

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