Tragedy: Gary Hill was accidentally shot by his nephew while hunting. Photo: Melanie Faith DoveThere is a white cross on a tree in a national park. Beneath is a memorial stone to a hunter mistakenly shot by his friend.
It is a scenario Premier Barry O’Farrell and Environment Minister Robyn Parker, who are planning to allow shooting in national parks, hope won’t be repeated too often in the future.
On Monday’s Four Corners program, called The Hunting Party, shooters were seen to pause at the shrine to the hunter.
Now his widow has spoken out to warn of the risks of opening NSW parks to shooters and fears there will be more tragedies in the future.
Gary Hill, 42, died instantly after his nephew lined him up in the sights of his .35-calibre rifle and pulled the trigger on what he thought was a deer. His ashes were scattered in the park by his widow and the two teenage children she was left alone to bring up.
”One minute you have a husband and then he is taken away from you through someone’s careless action,” Ros Hill said.
Joseph Norris, from Queensland, who fired the fatal shot in the Alpine National Park in Victoria, was a professional shooter and more experienced than many preparing now to shoot in the parks.
He told a coroner’s court he might have been suffering from ”buck fever”, a condition in which hunters are too anxious to bag a deer. It is that mentality that concerns those who are opposed to allowing shooting in national parks. The number of people holding shooting licences has been increasing since Mr Hill was killed in 1994.
Despite the tragedy, Mr Norris still has a gun licence, still shoots and has travelled to Canada to shoot elk, the world’s largest species of deer.
He is no longer in touch with the Hill family and believes that introducing shooting in national parks ”makes no difference” to the chance of accidents in the future.
”The facts are I failed in my duty to identify the target correctly, it is no more complicated than that. Basically the fact is I f—-ed up and finished shooting my best friend.
”It doesn’t matter if it’s in a national park or not. If in doubt, don’t shoot.”
But Mrs Hill, who used to target shoot, disagrees and believes allowing shooters into the national parks without stricter controls will mean more white crosses on trees.
”They went away shooting for two weeks or 10 days,” she said. ”Normally we used to talk before they went in the morning but we didn’t get a chance …
”I was with him half my life and then I lost him. It still doesn’t go away.
”It fractured my family, you are not a complete family any more. I am still very angry and when I watched the program that made me twice as angry. I was angry at Robert Borsak from the Shooters and Fishers Party and at the Game Council.
”There are rules of shooting that you should obey. If a professional shooter can do that [shoot someone], anyone can do it.
”Anyone can go in and apply for a gun licence and sit a test. You need more restrictions on getting a licence with uniform laws across Australia, which there are not.”
She doesn’t believe the wearing of blaze orange caps or clothing will make a difference.
”People who go in and shoot have no thought for other people,” she said. ”They are there for themselves to shoot and get something.
”The jackets aren’t going to do anything.
”Gary probably went the way he wanted to go but I don’t think we got justice with how he died and I think part of the problem is the gun laws.
”It was a really hard time and I still have counselling over it and I probably always will. It’s hard. It really is hard.”
Greens MP David Shoebridge said the tragedy confirmed the risk identified by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of letting amateurs into the parks.
”You can get your gun licence and your hunting licence from the Game Council and you are never required to have actually fired a gun or show any competence. They are both paper tests,” he said.
”We will have people in national parks who are rank amateurs who may have never fired a gun before and the first time they are handling a live weapon is when they are sharing a national park with bush walkers and members of the public.
”This incident shows that even the most highly trained shooters can make mistakes and you multiply that danger when you have amateurs.”
A statement from Ms Parker said: ”No hunting will occur in national parks until after a review into the governance of the Game Council.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.