Bali Bombing

HK victims return to confront their demons

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 October, 2003, 12:00am


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The last time Nick Axiotes was in Bali he was in agony, swathed in pillow cases as he waited for hours to be evacuated from the Sanglah general hospital in Denpasar, Bali.

The pillow cases were the closest things to bandages the overstrained hospital could provide to cover the burns that covered 17 per cent of his body.

Mr Axiotes was one of the Hong Kong-based rugby referees and players who survived the bombings that killed 11 people from Hong Kong and injured at least three more.

Mr Axiotes returned last weekend - his burned limbs healing well.

While his left arm was still encased in a pressure 'sleeve' that helps burned skin mend, he had the energy to scream at players on the field.

Mr Axiotes again refereed the memorial Bali Rugby Tens tournament and met up with friends and fellow players from all over Asia who also were in Bali last year.

He said he was not reluctant to return. He even went for a quick drink at the new Paddy's Bar, about 150 metres from the original site where he was injured.

But he was surprised at the lack of security last weekend around along Jalan Legian and the Sari Club, where the main bomb in last year's attacks, a tonne of explosives planted inside a van parked outside, exploded.

'I was disappointed. We'd been told there would be no cars allowed and security would be tight,' he said. 'But the crowds were trying to get down the street. There were cars parked everywhere and I didn't see one policeman down Jalan Legian.'

Mr Axiotes remembers little of the night of the bombings when he was drinking in Paddy's Bar.

'I heard a lightbulb pop and then the next thing I knew I was kicking chairs and people off me,' he said.

'Then the second bomb hit us and I must have passed out. I couldn't see anything. I walked into the street and luckily someone pushed me into a taxi and I went to the hospital.'

He spent three days in hospital before flying back to Hong Kong.

'Conditions were horrendous there. I couldn't sleep and I was in shock and I just remember waiting hour after hour to get out of there,' he said.

Ian Hampton, also from Hong Kong, was also drinking in Paddy's Bar when the first of two bombs exploded, burning his exposed legs and arms and spraying his body with shrapnel.

He lost three friends in the bombings and still has powerful and frightening memories of that night.

But when he returned last weekend, his first visit was to what remains of Paddy's Bar and a solid wall down a lane beside the building that was his escape route from the resulting inferno.

'The local people gave great assistance. They broke down those concrete walls with bamboo sticks,' he recalled.