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‘My two daughters were the first to go and the last to go’: Bali bombing dad remembers

Denpasar: Danny Hanley has told his story before.

But the 72-year-old Brisbane man is prepared to tell the story again.

Danny Hanley and Jenni Hanley brought flowers to bomb Bali monument to remember their daughters who were among the 88 victims from Australia. Credit:Amilia Rosa

"Every year we come here and put up a photo of them," he says of his daughters. On Friday, he laid a wreath at the Ground Zero memorial which remembers the 202 people who died in the 2002 Bali bombing.

As the families of the victims of the 2002 terror attack gather in Denpasar on Saturday once again, across the road from the Ground Zero memorial the land on which the Sari Club once stood still lies vacant, boarded up.

General photos of Bomb Bali Monument.Credit:The Age

Talks between the Perth-based Bali Peace Park Association and representatives of the land owners met last week but the negotiations have again stalled over the price for the land.

The need to remember the victims endures.

Every year, Danny's wife Jenni says, he pledges that this will be the last time he visits on the anniversary of the attack.

But every year, he returns.

Hanley's two daughters, 30-year-old Renae Marie Anderson and 28-year-old Simone Jane Hanley were on holidays in Bali with a group of girlfriends on the fateful night that terrorists from Jemaah Islamiyah detonated three bombs on October 12, 2002.

The monument to the victims of the bombing in Bali in 2002.Credit:The Age

Renae's husband Jason and son Noah were at home in Sydney while she enjoyed a holiday.

The sisters had just arrived at the Sari Club.

Simone was in the bar, while her sister Renae and their friend Francois 'Franny' Dahan were still entering the bar when a Mitsubishi van packed with explosives exploded, wiping out so many lives and shattering so many more.

"Renae didn’t stand a chance. Her and Franny, they weren't far from the bomb. Simone somehow got out, she was badly burnt [she had burns to about 80 per cent of her body], but someone got her on a motorbike and took her to one of the hospitals."

From there, Hanley's younger daughter was one of the first victims airlifted to a Perth hospital where she was treated by doctor Fiona Wood, the noted burns expert and later Australian of the Year.

Slowly, infection set in and spread. Simone's arm was amputated. Then her leg.

After 58 days fighting for her life, Simone lost her battle and died.

Danny Hanley and his wife Jenni wipe away tears as he tells the story of his girls – gone, but not forgotten, like all of the victims from around the world – once more.

"You never get over it, it’s 17 years now," Hanley says, "they had a pretty reasonable life, they did horse riding and waterskiiing, in a way I am glad I was able to do that for them before I lost them."

The black and white photo that Hanley has placed at the Ground Zero memorial on Friday afternoon shows him, his son Danny junior and his two girls.

The picture was taken on Father's Day 2002, just a few weeks before his girls were taken from him.

"When they say 88 Australians died, 202 people all up, I know for a fact that being 58 days in that Perth hospital, Simone was number 88."

"Every time I hear that '88' I think of how Simone was last and Renae was the first. My two daughters were the first to go and the last to go."

Back in May it was revealed the land owners planned to build a five-storey restaurant complex on the site, with a monument on the roof to the people killed in the attack.

That prompted a flurry of activity, offer and counter-offer, with figures from $5 million to $20 million bandied about and suggestions of compensation not just for the land but also revenue foregone from the unrealised restaurant development.

Association chairman David Napoli said "I expect a decision soon on a deal or whether we walk away".

The Australian government has indicated it is prepared to help fund the purchase of the land – but not to pay compensation for revenue foregone.

Local officials, who mostly support the concept of a memorial park about 700 square metres in size, declined to comment on the negotiations, as Lila Tania, the woman negotiating on behalf of the land owners.

Commemorative events were due to be held yesterday to mark the anniversary at the Australian consulate in Denpasar, and at Ground Zero, amid heightened security following the stabbing of Indonesian Security minister Wiranto, and arrests of suspected terrorists in Bandung, Manado and Bali.

Thiolina Marpaung, an Indonesian survivor of the bombing who is also part of the Bali Peace Park association, said she still had high hopes the deal after more than a decade of negotiations.

"After 17 years I personally still have high hopes for the Peace Park to happen. I always include it in my prayers. It will be more than just a place to remember, it will provide families, people in general, information about the radicalism in the world."

And what does Danny Hanley think of the Peace Park?

"I think it’s a good idea, though naturally I’d say that, I think it would be a wonderful way to remember [the victims]."

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