On October 12th 2002, three bombs were detonated in two Bali hotspots which resulted in the death of 202 people, 88 of whom were Australian.

It was the single largest loss of Australian life due to an act of terror.

Now, 20 years on from the tragedy, survivors told 9News their inspirational yet harrowing stories of survival, and how their lives have changed since since that fateful day two decades ago.


After suffering devastating burns to 85 percent of her body, Therese Fox has fought valiantly through hundreds of skin grafts, life-threatening infections and agonising physiotherapy.

Therese spent a year in hospital and defied doctor’s expectations to survive, only to be confronted with the reality of survivor’s guilt.

Two decades on, she is still haunted by the loss of her good friend Bronwyn Cartwright and dozens of others.

“I could go through my burns a hundred times over. The guilt of survival is the hardest thing to live with,” Fox said, before breaking down in the face of the overwhelming emotion of her first return to Bali.


When Ashleigh Airlie was just 14-years-old, she was faced with the trauma of losing her mother Gayle, who was killed in the terror attack.

Four other mothers were holidaying in Bali with their teenage daughters, who were in the back of the Sari Club when the second bomb went off.

It was just two days before Ashleigh’s 15th birthday when she was buried under the collapsing roof and leaving her grasping for strangers’ legs to make it out to the street.

“When I think about it, that’s the last place I had a good time with my mum,” Ashleigh, now 34, told 9News.

“It was the last place we had fun and she was having the time of her life.”


When Peter Hughes was interviewed from his hospital bed, he unknowingly became the Australian face of the Bali bombing tragedy, which left him feeling “a little bit embarrassed about it all”.

“I was dying at the time and I knew that,” he said, describing the interview as a chance to show his son Leigh that he was ok, even though he knew he wasn’t.

“I was just hanging on back then.”

While appearing on TV, Peter was swollen and barely able to breathe, but seemed unconcerned about his injuries.

He slipped into a coma days later with burns to more than half his body.

Now, he still struggled with the physical and mental effects of surviving the attack, but that doesn’t stop him from returning to Bali several times a year.


While Andrew Csabi was laying in the street dying outside the smoking ruins of the Sari Club, he gave himself the last rites.

“I looked down, I said, ‘my leg’s blown off’ and I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

“I laid there quietly and I issued myself last rights.”

Natalie and Nicole

Nicole McLean and Natalie Goold were just 23 when the bombs went off in Bali.

After Nicole lost her right arm and suffered horrific leg injuries in the attack, Natalie fought to save the life of her friend in an act that saw her became one of only four people awarded the Star of Courage medal in the Bali honours list.

“She was just a force to be reckoned with. She knew where we had to go, where we had to be, and she wasn’t leaving my side,” McLean said.

“She was ripping people’s t-shirts off them and shoving them in my leg to stop the blood.”

Nicole McLean had survived the horror of the Sari Club and made it onto an RAAF jet that could get her back to Australia within hours.

Image credits: 9News

This article first appeared on OverSixty.