Tears shed in decision whether to rename bridge after Rhys
It was the vote that reduced the mayor to tears.
Livingstone Shire Council was presented with a notice of motion from mayor Andy Ireland to rename the Fig Tree Creek bridge in Yeppoon after young student Rhys Yore.
But the council had to consider some tough questions about the heartfelt proposal during its ordinary meeting on April 20.
The 16-year-old St Brendan’s College student tragically lost his life when the Ford Falcon he was a passenger in left Appleton Drive and crashed into the bridge on Thursday, January 21, 2021.
Later that day, the community gathered at the bridge to set up a memorial for the St Brendan’s student, and messages of support have since been written on the guardrail.
“Unless you’ve lost a child, there’s no way of really understanding the grief of an incident of this nature,” Cr Ireland told the meeting.
“And the outpouring of support from this community has been nothing short of amazing.”
He said the guardrail wasn’t damaged as part of the crash, but deputy mayor Adam Belot and he had a couple of meetings with Rhys’ parents to get an idea for the commemoration they would like to see.
“There’s been a request from Mr and Mrs Yore and the community for renaming of the bridge, to be called as... Rhys Yore Bridge,” Cr Ireland said.
He said the council had a process around naming, and this particular request didn’t match the criteria that would regularly need to be adhered to.
However the council could override it with a vote.
Cr Ireland also proposed to donate the guardrail to Rhys’ family, and for the council to absorb the about $12,000 cost of doing so, out of respect for them and the community.
He pointed out there was a fatality on that bridge in the 1970s or 80s, however it was not to his knowledge of any request for naming after that incident.
Tough questions and considerations
Councillor Nigel Hutton asked whether or not there had been precedents for memorials in the Livingstone Shire or the Rockhampton region.
Journalist and councillor Rhodes Watson said he had photographed a kid who lost his life earlier, and he had photographs of him since he was a baby.
The boy’s plaque was put next to the Surf Lifesaver’s club.
Cr Ireland said the family was indicating the main memorial monument would likely go somewhere that Rhys enjoyed going to.
“With respect to the family, I think that if you do something like this, people will remember this all the time, not for the right reasons,” Cr Watson told the meeting.
“You’ve got to think of the person who was in the car at the time that was driving, the passenger - they’re already paying for it.
“And I think we need to look somewhere else for it to be a memorial.”
Cr Ireland said he appreciated Cr Watson’s comment and passion.
Cr Ireland spoke with the family about this point and they did not want to put the primary monument or memorial at this site for that reason, but they still requested the bridge to be named after Rhys.
Councillor Andrea Friend said this was a chance for the council to show its care and humanity.
“The family and friends of young Rhys Yore are in favour of this naming of the bridge,” she said.
“Rhys was a young man who has an immeasurable amount of friends and extremely loving family.
“He loved cricket, fishing, surfing, and he enjoyed his life.
“This young man does not now have an opportunity to grow and make a name for himself as an adult, or indeed create a legacy.
“The world was his oyster, and he was the Yore family’s world.”
Cr Hutton said he was quite conflicted on this issue, although he fully supported the guardrail proposal.
“The challenge that I face is that in providing the naming of Rhys’ bridge, not only do we... provide an opportunity for family and friends, but it is that constant reminder,” he said.
“When I spoke to one of the fireys that had been on the scene, they’re still traumatised by the event they witnessed that day.”
He said it would be a constant reminder to those affected every time they drove by.
Cr Hutton said a memorial was a wonderful idea, but also said ‘what might make one person happy might make five others sad’.
“I don’t know where to sit, but I think it’s worthy of our consideration that in the naming of this bridge, there are both consequences in the positive and negative,” Cr Hutton said.
Councillor Pat Eastwood, a former police officer, said it was a very difficult decision.
“Post traumatic stress is a very real thing and I’m sure there’s many in the police service, the ambulance, the fireys, and even local people that would be feeling the effects of an accident, and of that place,” he said.
“I’ve actually been to a fatality at a bridge, but I can tell you that bridge hasn’t got a name but every time I cross that bridge I think of that person that died there, along with many other places.
“It wouldn’t make a difference whether that bridge had the name of that person on it or not.”
He remembers those feelings are very real.
Cr Eastwood said he would go with the wishes of the Yore family, and the name would be a reminder that something bad happened there and for people to be careful.
Councillor Glenda Mather was not going to say anything originally, but brought up the case of a Livingstone family with a terminally ill child.
“And you will remember not so long ago, that we received a request to have a cemetery built at The Caves,” Cr Mather said.
“We don’t have one there.
“But the request of a parent to cushion the grief that they’ve experienced, or will experience, or will continue to experience, because those who have lost a child say it’s a grief like no other.
“So, it’s so important to take on board the feelings of those immediately involved - that is the family.
“Because they are the best ones to know how to alleviate that grief, at least to some extent.”
Finally, Cr Belot brought up the words of Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, that if something was still causing trauma, write it down, because suppressing it may traumatise one for life.
“I highly respect the comments of my fellow councillors,” Cr Belot said.
“Writing down the name of this bridge on a sign for everybody to see, I think based on that psychologist’s advice, is the right move to make.”
Cr Belot said he was not a qualified psychologist, so acted upon Dr Peterson’s advice.
The deputy mayor let out tears as he spoke about his experience with Rhys’ parents.
“I stopped by several days after the accident to embrace Mr Shane Yore who put his head on my shoulder and wept, and wept, and wept,” Cr Belot said.
“I said nothing, because nothing one can say at that time is going to be enough.
“I remember his words though, ‘I just want my little boy back’.
“Naming this bridge will not bring his boy back, but it will endear this boy’s name for many years to come.
“I’m comfortable to take that step to write that name on that sign for our community - to absorb each time we drive by.”
Cr Ireland broke down in tears after Cr Belot delivered his poignant words.
Should it go ahead?
After a five minute break, the councillors voted on the proposal.
“I just wanted to thank councillors for their consideration and I know whichever way you vote on this, it will be heartfelt,” Cr Ireland said.
All councillors except for Cr Watson voted in favour of renaming the bridge to Rhys Yore Bridge and absorbing the cost of the guardrail donation.