Netball Queensland CEO Catherine Clark.
Netball Queensland CEO Catherine Clark. Sarah Steger

'Hearts are broken': 8yo girl mourned at netball tournament

**LATEST STORY | TRIBUTES FLOW: 1500 descend on netball courts to pay respect**


IT WAS a day marked by heartache and pain at Bundaberg SuperPark.

What should have been the first of two days of pure adrenaline and friendly competition between primary school students from around the state was instead weighed down by the loss of one of Netball Queensland's own.

More than 1500 heavy hearts mourned the shocking death of an eight-year-old girl who was one of two people tragically killed on the Bruce Highway yesterday.

The horror crash between the two vehicles unfolded 5km south of Childers, about 1.20pm.

The child, an older woman and a 12-year-old girl were on their way to a netball carnival in Bundaberg when their sedan collided with a southbound travelling ute that was carrying the other fatality, a man whose age has not been confirmed by authorities.

Both female survivors, who suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries, were airlifted from the roadside covered in debris from both wreckages to the Sunshine Coast.

Less than 20 hours later, more than 1000 competitors, referees, organisers and supporters from all over Queensland were addressed in a heartbreaking speech given by Netball Queensland's CEO Catherine Clark.

"As a mother of two small kids, two and four, that was one of the reasons I almost got through the speech without crying," Ms Clark said.

"I can't imagine the pain and grief. It's one thing to lose anyone in an accident, but a whole other to lose an eight-year-old, so yeah my heart goes out.

"The whole tragic events of yesterday break my heart."

The Samsung Primary Schools Cup is a two-day event hosted in a different location across Queensland each year.

This weekend marks the first time the sporting carnival not only came to Bundaberg, but went regional.

"(In my speech) I welcomed everyone to Bundaberg, and it is fantastic for us to be here. There's obviously an enormous amount of work goes into pulling an event together like this and there's 800 to 1000 young girls who have been excited about this event for a very long time," Ms Clark said.

"But it was also with a really heavy heart that we had to share the news that there'll be some of our netball family that won't be here with us because of the incident that occurred yesterday."

Close to tears, Ms Clark said she had been CEO of Netball Queensland since 2015.

But despite opening countless tournaments in the past, she said she'd never before felt how she had whilst giving her speech today.

"It was hard. I've never done one like this before," she said.

"Our netball community, our family is massive. Almost 65,000 members, but we're also really close, so when you miss someone, like this with a few people not here, it has a pretty big effect.

"Right now, we're focussed on wrapping our arms around that community and in a way it is a great thing that we've come together, so that we can take care of each other and celebrate the strength and support and the passion that's in this sport.

"There are so many people who will be grieving and who will be feeling the impacts ... There's an overwhelming sense of sort of love and support and the importance of coming together.

"When we spoke to all the teams and the families that are here in Bundaberg we made sure that everyone was aware that there is on-site support (provided by Bundaberg Regional Council) available and we want people to reach out and talk to each other."

Ms Clark thanked all emergency and first responders for their commitment and the work they did and continues to do.

"We are forever grateful for their bravery," she said.

In a statement released by Netball Queensland, the association encouraged anyone who was affected by the tragic event to contact lifeline on 131 114.

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