TORNADO in Eaglehawk - May 18, 2003.In less than 10 minutes, eight homes were destroyed and 44 houses were in need of major repairs after a tornado ripped through Eaglehawk and California Gully.The tornado, which traced a 500-metre-wide path, created a 7km trail of destruction through the Bendigo suburbs.The worst-affected areas were Firth and Nelson streets as well as Gleeson and Finn streets, where eight homes were destroyed and others suffered serious structural damage.Remarkably, no-one was injured in the freak event that ripped roofs from homes, smashed windows and uprooted trees. The tornado, accompanied by a ferocious storm, resulted in a major emergency effort to restore power to up to 18,000 homes in the area as well as a clean-up to ensure the area was safe.According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the 150kmh tornado was a freak event for central Victoria and was the worst experienced in the state since a similar event in Wonthaggi in 1993.Flash flooding was also recorded in Strathfieldsaye and Flora Hill, which forced water into people’s homes.Five dead in horror crash - June 20, 2004A well-known Bendigo family-of-four and a foreign exchange student were killed after one of the worst ever car crashes in the region.Parents Richard (Rick) Ervin, 45, and Anne, 46, as well as sisters Brooke, 17, and Jade, 14, all died in the horror collision near Campbells Creek.French exchange student Elisabeth Marie Chambon, 15, who was on exchange with the Ervin family, also died when the family’s sedan collided with a truck.Corinne Ervin, 22, who was living and working in Melbourne, was the only member of the well-known Golden Square family to escape the horror crash.Police investigating the crash described it as one of the region’s worst ever and confirmed that learner driver Brooke was driving when the collision occurred.News of the fatalities stunned the central Victorian community including employees at the Ervin family’s air-conditioning company, Refcair, and the students at Catholic College Bendigo and Bendigo Senior Secondary College where Brooke and Jade had attended.Mrs Ervin’s brother’s Gerard and Peter Fitzpatrick held a nation-wide media conference where they spoke of the victims and released photographs of the family they had lost.“The Ervin family were just the best people,” Gerard said.“They knew so many people, they were involved in sport. They were involved in all sorts of organisations.”The crash also sparked the debate over whether further restrictions should be placed on inexperienced motorists and drivers on learner’s permits.Commonwealth Youth Games - December, 2004More than 1000 of the world’s best young athletes descended on Bendigo in December 2004 for the Commonwealth Youth Games.The games, held at a number of venues in the city including Tom Flood Sports Centre, QEO and the Schweppes Centre, displayed the ability of the world’s young athletes and gave them the chance to experience a major international meet.More than 5000 people attended the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Youth Games, which included young athletes from 27 Commonwealth nations.The Australian team dominated the Games, leading the medal tally with the team taking out 58 gold, 41 silver and 30 bronze.Among the Australian success was Bendigo cyclist Zac Dempster who took out two gold medals in individual pursuit and the men’s 10km scratch race.There were not just wins in the medal tally for Bendigo, with the hosting of the games earning the local economy millions of dollars.The success of the games also relied on partnerships with many local organisations, in particular La Trobe University, which provided much of the accommodation and food services for the international teams. La Trobe University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Dean, Professor Peter Sullivan, said the university was proud to provide accommodation for the games.“It was an example of what a community can achieve when individuals and organisations work in partnership,” he said.Commonwealth Games - March 2006Commonwealth Games fever hit Melbourne in March 2006, but Bendigo managed to get in on the action, hosting shooting events and part of the basketball draw.Hundreds of people braved the cold to attend the official opening of the Bendigo Cultural Festival and Live Site at the Civic Gardens, which coincided with the opening ceremony of the Melbourne Games.The games excitement took over the Schweppes Centre, with more than 1000 people turning out to watch the first day of the basketball program get under way.Central Victoria boasted a number of successful athletes at the games including former Lady Brave Emily McInerney, who played an important role in the Opals Commonwealth winning performance.Castlemaine’s Sean Finning added to Central Victoria’s success, winning the 160-lap 40km points race at the Melbourne Park Velodrome.Silver medals went to gun-netballer Sharelle McMahon and Olympic diving champion Chantelle Newberry while Glenn Warfe made it to the final group of 16 in the Badminton.But with every success there is heartbreak, with Bendigo’s Duane Cousins being disqualified from the 50km walk while in silver medal contention.Bendigo was also host to the only Australian gold medal win outside of Melbourne, sharing in the glory of Townsville’s Bruce Scott, who won the Full Bore shooting gold medal at the Wellsford Rifle Range in Bendigo.Kerang Rail Disaster - June 5, 2007Central Victoria was witness to one of Australia’s worst rail disasters when a truck and train collided near Kerang in June 2007.The horror crash killed 11 people and left others seriously injured when the truck slammed into the side of a Melbourne-bound passenger train at the crossing on the Murray Valley Highway about6km north of Kerang.The impact of the crash ripped open the train’s second carriage, causing it to compact and trap nine bodies in the wreckage overnight.Among the victims were Robinvale’s Geoff McMonnies and his 17-year-old daughter Roseanne who were killed in the crash, while 15-year-old sister Sharice was flown to the Royal Children’s hospital in a critical condition.The NSW town of Balranald mourned the loss of Melbourne-based nurse Stephanie Meredith and her two daughters Danielle and Chantelle.Kerang lost 79-year-old grandmother Margaret Wishart in the crash as well as 83-year-old great-grandfather Harold Long.Other victims of the horror crash were 13-year-old Swan Hill student Matthew Stubbs, 79-year-old Swan Hill resident Jean Webb, 32-year-old New Zealander Nick Parker and South Korean tourist Jaesoek Lee, 26.The truck driver involved, Christiaan Scholl, pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of culpable driving and eight of negligently causing serious injury in relation to the crash and was acquitted of all charges.Bendigo Bank Opening - December 11, 2008“If we become just another bank, we too, will disappear . . . but we are not just another bank - we are The Bendigo.”These were the proud words of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Chairman Robert Johanson that boomed out to the thousands of people packed in Charing Cross and Bath Lane to witness Prime Minister Kevin Rudd officially open The Bendigo Centre.They were there to celebrate their bank, who had made one of the biggest commitments to the city of Bendigo.Both Kevin Rudd and Victorian Premier John Brumby were there to open the centre, which was designed to merge business and the community.Mr Johanson said Bendigo was always the obvious choice for the bank’s headquarters.“Our identity and our culture is inextricably tied up with this city,” he said.“The Bendigo Centre has been built upon the solid foundations that have underpinned our business for 150 years.“By living and working in the communities we serve, we can gain a greater understanding of our customers and add value to their communities.”The centre was designed to draw people in, featuring two open-air lanes as well as a piazza, known as Lyric Square.The centre was also built with environmental concerns in mind, with the building using half the energy of a typical office building.The new building’s potable water use was reduced by 50 per cent and the recycling water treatment used saves 20,000 litres of waste water a day.