By Ash’lee Charlton
A KORUMBURRA man is in a critical condition with a fractured skull and two others were injured after a sickening assault on three volunteers on Saturday night.
In what police have described as a “vicious, unprovoked and sustained attack”, the three victims, all volunteers of the South Gippsland Tourist Railway, were set upon by two offenders in two separate incidents.
One of the alleged attackers, Jacob Quine, 19 of Korumburra, was on bail at the time of the offence, and prohibited from being at the Korumburra Railway Station where the assaults occurred as a result of previous offending at the site.
Police say he and a 16 year-old Korumburra youth used baseball bats as they targeted the three volunteers.
The first assault occurred on Saturday night around 9.30pm when South Gippsland Tourist Railway vice president Shane Blitz was attacked.
Leading Senior Constable Stephen Van Hamond said the offenders went to the platform and threw a pot plant through a glass window, before breaking two glass panels in a door to a residence which is set up for the volunteers to live in.
“When the first victim approached the offenders, he was taken to the ground and kicked,” Ld Snr Const Van Hamond said.
A second man came to his aid and the offenders ran off. Suffering cuts and abrasions, Mr Blitz was taken to the Korumburra Hospital for
Police attended the scene and spoke with the volunteers, before leaving.
Two hours later, at 11.30pm, the offenders returned to the station, this time armed with baseball bats and forced their way in to the bedroom.
“They hit the second victim over the head with the baseball bat. He was knocked unconscious in what was a vicious, unprovoked attack on a defenceless man,” Ld Snr Const Van Hamond said.
During the assault, a third volunteer came to help, but he was also set upon.
“The third man received a broken jaw, suspected broken ribs and welt marks all over his body,” Ld Snr Const Van Hammond said.
The attack only stopped when Mr Blitz arrived back from hospital, with the offenders fleeing at the sound of the vehicle.
“The second victim was taken to Monash Hospital with a fractured skull and two fractures to his arm after he has tried to put his arm up to protect himself,” Ld Snr Const Van Hammond said.
“He is suffering bleeding on the brain.” The man was being operated on yesterday (Monday) afternoon.
After fleeing the scene, the two men were arrested later at 3am and taken to the Wonthaggi Police Station where they were charged and remanded.
The 16 year-old youth faced the Melbourne Children’s Court’ yesterday and was remanded for a further hearing in three weeks.
Quine faced a hearing at the Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court, and will reappear on Friday. Neither offender applied for bail.
Ld Snr Const Van Hamond said the offenders were aware of CCTV surveillance at the station, and on returning for the second attack they destroyed the monitor and computer by throwing it in a fire.
Despite his ordeal, Mr Blitz thanked the community for the support he has received since the incident and said the volunteers would not be deterred from providing the railway service for the locals.
“We have had a lot of calls and I would really like to thank the community,” he said.
“We are all volunteers at the railway, and I have volunteered in South Gippsland for 30 years and I would never have thought it would come to this.
“I would never have thought volunteers would suffer this fate.
“The community of Korumburra and Leongatha should not have to live in fear.”
Despite his return back to the station on Saturday night, helping to stop the attack on his friends, Mr Blitz says finding them is something he will never forget.
“It was very frightening to walk into that room,” he said.
“It is an image I am not going to forget for a very long time.”
Now the volunteer organisation is vowing to continue to do what they love.
“This is not only physically devastating on us three but it has also taken an emotional toll on all the members,” Mr Blitz said.
“But we are going to continue business as usual. We are not going to let these thugs stand over us.
“It will be a struggle because we are three members down, but we will keep operating.
“We are not going to allow their actions to deter us from our passion.”