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'Screams of terror': wedding guest of Peter Holmes a Court killed in rail smash

Date

Damien Murphy, Jacob Saulwick and Esther Han

William Poovey, who was killed, with wife Kara in the tram just minutes before the crash.

William Poovey, who was killed, with wife Kara in the tram just minutes before the crash.

Peter Holmes a Court and his American friends William and Kara Poovey posed happily for the camera as the picturesque old tram rocked along the track towards Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls.

In some ways, it was a something of a homecoming.

Mr Holmes a Court's father, the late West Australian billionaire Robert, had spent much of his formative years in the old Southern Rhodesia during the colonial era and his oldest son was showing wedding guests his father's old stamping ground when tragedy struck.

Peter Holmes a Court and his American fiancee Alissa Everett.

Peter Holmes a Court and his American fiancee Alissa Everett. Photo: The couple's fundraising page.

A goods train ran into the back of the tourist tram, killing Mr Poovey and seriously injuring many guests.

Mr Holmes a Court and his American fiancee, Alissa Everett, a professional photographer who works extensively in Africa, had invited about 30 friends from Australia, the US and the Netherlands for Saturday's wedding in Botswana.

At sunset on Tuesday, July 1, they all boarded the tram for what the Zimbabwean Steam Train Company lists as a "champagne sunset" visit to the spectacular waterfall.

At 5pm, the tram was hit from behind by a goods train on the same track.

"There were screams of terror, everything went flying," said a friend, who asked not to be named. "The tram slid 200 to 300 yards and people were thrown out."

Mr Poovey, a 44-year-old Californian father of two, died later from head injuries after being airlifted to South Africa. About 20 other passengers sustained broken bones, sprains and severe bruising. Mrs Poovey received treatment for a broken jaw in Johannesburg in South Africa and will be arriving in New York on Wednesday.

The friend said Mr Holmes a Court was "swollen in a lot of places" but not badly injured, while his fiancee was unhurt.

Mr Holmes a Court's younger brother Paul, who was on board with two of his school-aged children when the accident happened, has returned to Perth.

His best man, Jason Gissing, a supermarket entrepreneur who attended Oxford University with Mr Holmes a Court, was treated in South Africa for a broken arm.

Robert Holmes a Court was among the first Australian high-profile asset strippers who surfaced during the 1970s – he once tried to beat Rupert Murdoch to take over the reins of the ailing Herald and Weekly Times newspaper group. 

He died in 1990, aged 53, from a heart attack and his corporate raider image has been airbrushed by the contribution of his widow, Janet Holmes a Court, and their children to Australia's artistic and sporting cultures.

Peter Holmes a Court maintains an association with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, but rarely gets to games these days as he lives in France. His first wife, Divonne, lives in Switzerland with their four children.

Mr Holmes a Court and Ms Everett had asked wedding guests to contribute to a $24,000 fund to help Congolese women and children.

On Tuesday, the fund had raised $17,784 but the couple had postponed the wedding.

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