Sat, Oct 13, 2012 - Page 20 News List

Taipei Baboons reflect on Indonesia tragedy

AP, BALI, INDONESIA

The following article was first published in the Taipei Times on Oct. 17, 2002. It has been reprinted to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Bali bombing.

Staring blankly at the pile of rubble that once housed the Sari Club, Peter Chworowsky shook his head and hugged his fellow rugby players.

Teammate Kelvin Bezuidenhout sobbed as a group of Balinese threw rose petals on the site of Saturday’s bomb blast. Behind the charred remains of a nearby pub, someone sang Amazing Grace.

This memorial Tuesday marked the end of a chapter for the Taipei Baboons, a tight-knit expatriate rugby club based in Taiwan. It was a chance to say goodbye to the four teammates and a female fan they lost, and reflect on how the terrorist attack changed their lives.

“I feel mostly sadness for the guys that didn’t get out,” said Chworowsky, a 43-year-old American businessman from Lakeville, Wisconsin, who was left partially deaf from the blast. “But I’m also sad for the terrorists. I’m trying to figure out why they would do that, how their minds would get so screwed up that they would bomb a nightclub.”

202 people were killed and 300 wounded in the car-bomb attack on the popular nightclub. Indonesian officials suspect the al-Qaeda terrorist network carried out the bombing.

Rugby teams — in town for a weekend tournament — appear to be among the hardest hit. Chworowsky said many players spent the weekend at the Sari Club, and at least three teams he has talked to lost a combined total of up to 15 players.

Among them was the Hong Kong Football Club, which confirmed Tuesday that it lost two players and that five other players and two female fans remain missing.

Twenty members of the Taipei team arrived in Bali Thursday and Friday and hung out at the Sari Club and nearby Paddy’s.

They played three games Saturday, had dinner and headed for the Sari Club around 10pm. Packed with mostly young Australian and European tourists, it seemed like a typical night out — until the crowd heard a loud bang around 11:30pm.

Most turned around to see an orange glow coming from Paddy’s, where a first bomb exploded. Seconds later, a second, more powerful explosion tore into the Sari Club. It knocked many patrons unconscious, caused the roof to collapse and sparked a fire that consumed the bar within minutes.

The stunned players found themselves covered in concrete or pieces of the roof. They smelled smoke and heard the crackling of the fast-moving fire.

“It was pitch black and you could see the glow of the fire illuminating the room,” said Scott Murphy, a 29-year-old Australian from Brisbane whose brother, Max, also survived. “I just started grabbing people and pulling them to their feet.”

Nearby, Chworowsky found himself on his back, being trampled on. He got up and saw the main entrance blocked by thick smoke and flames. Bodies were everywhere and screams filled the air.

“I remember thinking: This is what war is like,” he said.

Chworowsky climbed out through a hole in a wall. He soon realized that at least five of the 12 players at the club had not come out.

“When I was standing on the street, I was thinking anyone who did not get out was probably gone,” he said.

The teammates later searched for the missing, but found only one injured player at a hospital.

The Taipei team’s lost members — James Hardman, 28, of Sydney; Daniel Braden, 28, of Brighton, England; Godfrey Fitz, 39, and Craig Harty, 35, both of South Africa; and Eve Kuo, 24, of Taiwan — will leave a gaping hole in the club that players described as their extended family.

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