The smell of train brakes still brings Darran Harvey back to December 1999 and the Glenbrook train disaster.
The now retired police officer worked a 20-hour day assisting with rescue and recovery operations, and after just four hours break started his next shift identifying bodies. Seven people died and 51 were injured when a CityRail train collided with the rear wagon of the long-haul Perth-to-Sydney Indian Pacific.
He recalls being particularly traumatised by the death of a child who was the same age as one of his sons at the time. But he got on with his job and on with his life.
Then came the 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires.
“I was right in amongst the fire and the smoke … these events built up and it just overwhelmed me. I was shaking, I couldn’t remember stuff, I was angry, I couldn’t decide what to do,” the retired Senior Constable recalls.
It wasn’t until July 2015 that he would be diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“The police recognised it as 29 years of accumulated damage,” Mr Harvey said.
“If you don’t fix that problem down there it gets locked down there and builds up.”
The Faulconbridge man says while the Blue Mountains Police have been supportive, regular wellness checks for police and better awareness around what constitutes a healthy mind would be beneficial.
For two years Mr Harvey has been treated for PTSD. It’s been a long, hard road, but he’s in a much better place now and the violent nightmares have stopped. Whistling away to himself, “the boys say ‘Dad’s back' wife Carolyn says.
In October Mr Harvey retired from the police force after 29 years service in the Blue Mountains. The 49-year-old has started a fencing business. “Fencing is kind of therapeutic,” he says.
While policing took everything he had – even his first day on the job at 19 was confronting: a fatal motorcycle crash – he enjoyed helping people. “I’m proud to have served the community where I grew up and resided,” Mr Harvey said.
A general duties police officer, Mr Harvey spent 10 years at Katoomba and 17 years at Springwood station.
He also worked as an analyst and intelligence officer, studying local crime statistics to assist police crews with effective patrolling.
In 1988 he performed guard duty at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum for the visit of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher while snipers looked on, and in 2010 he was part of the NSW police force contingent protecting US President Barack Obama in his visit to Darwin.
In June 2015 when the Dalai Lama visited Leura, Mr Harvey was honoured to receive his blessing.
Mr Harvey has received his first clasp to the National Police Medal and third clasp to the NSW Police Service Medal for serving the community.
Blue Mountains Police Inspector Peter Balatincz said he was “to be congratulated on a fine policing career.”