The 10 biggest local stories of 2020

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It’s been a huge year in Penrith, and as 2020 draws to a close, we look back on the biggest stories that impacted the local area this year.

10. Log Cabin confirms return to Penrith

It’s the story that had locals talking in 2020 – the city’s most iconic pub, destroyed by fire in 2012, is making a comeback.

A consortium including the Cottle family, the Laundy family and local businessman Rob Wearn confirmed plans for the hotel, which will retain the original Log Cabin name, back in April.

In late November, the Log Cabin was approved – it’ll return alongside the Nepean River, much to the delight of those who have such fond memories of the old hotel.

What the new-look Log Cabin entrance will look like.

9. Penrith Press axes long-standing print edition

News Corp confirmed in May that it was axing the Penrith Press newspaper in May, 73 years after it first rolled off the presses.

The paper had suspended printing at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, but did not return.

The axing of the Press left The Western Weekender as Penrith’s only home delivered newspaper.

The News Local office on High Street in Penrith in 2017.

8. Community rocked by passing of local icon

Penrith was devastated in May when Museum of Fire CEO and veteran firefighter Mark White passed away suddenly while on duty.

Mr White was the longest serving firefighter at St Marys Fire and Rescue, serving the community for over 40 years.

Penrith MP Stuart Ayres said Mr White’s passing was a devastating loss for his family and the wider community.

“His passion for the Museum of Fire is legendary and his commitment to community safety has left an indelible mark on countless young people across NSW,” he said.

Penrith MP Stuart Ayres with Museum of Fire CEO Mark White.

7. Chaos as rain smashes Penrith region

Dozens of roads were closed, sporting events cancelled and schools shut down when a massive rain event hit the area in February.

The Kingsway at Werrington was completely under water, while power outages also impacted the region.

Twin Creeks Golf Club was among the worst hit by the storm.

Traffic navigates Cranebrook Road in February. Photo: Megan Dunn.

6. Crash diver jailed for at least 10 years

Katherine Hoang with her husband Bronko. Photo: Facebook

There was finally some justice for the family of Katherine Hoang in early November when Richard Moananu was jailed for 15 years with a non-parole period of 10 years over a horror 2018 crash at Orchard Hills.

Moananu was responsible for the manslaughter of Ms Hoang (nee Gordon), who was due to deliver her twin boys by caesarean the following week.

Ms Hoang’s sister-in-law was also killed in the accident.

Moananu’s sentence also took into account the grievous bodily harm inflicted on Katherine’s husband Bronko Hoang, 27, who was the front seat passenger at the time of the crash.

5. Iconic businesses close for good

2020 saw the loss of a number of long-standing businesses.

At the top of the list were the Major Oak Theatre Restaurant in St Marys and Werrington Squash Courts.

Both announced during the year they would be closing for good.

Rebecca Rock and Dennis Spicer at the squash court in Werrington. Photo: Megan Dunn.

4. Penrith records hottest ever temperature

On January 4, Penrith recorded an incredible 48.9 degrees just after 3pm, making it the city’s hottest day ever recorded.

It surpassed even the Bureau’s predictions, with a top temperature of 46 degrees forecast that day.

The record came as the nation was dealing with a massive bushfire crisis, which saw evacuations across NSW and Victoria.

3. Panthers reach the big dance

Penrith reached the NRL Grand Final for the first time in 17 years in October, ultimately falling to the Melbourne Storm in the decider.

The Panthers reached the big one on the back of 17 straight wins, including thrilling victories over the Roosters and Souths in the Finals.

While Penrith didn’t bring home the trophy, they did win the Minor Premiership – their first since 2003.

Jarome Luai in action in the 2020 Grand Final Grand Final. Photo: NRL Images.

2. Penrith shuts down as Coronavirus crisis bites

As COVID-19 erupted around the world, Penrith businesses were not immune to the crisis.

With the Government implementing harsh restrictions in an effort to ‘flatten the curve’, retailers began to shut along with clubs, pubs, restaurants and office buildings.

They were scenes unlike anything ever seen in Penrith, as the local economy essentially came to a halt. Locals worked from home while remote learning took place for school students.

Meantime, COVID-19 testing clinics were set up across Penrith as the health crisis escalated. Government stimulus was also announced to help businesses and individuals through the pandemic.

Myer closed its doors during the Coronavirus crisis. Photo: Megan Dunn.

1. 19 die in Newmarch House COVID-19 outbreak

Caddens nursing home Newmarch House became the epicentre of the Coronavirus crisis in New South Wales following an outbreak in April.

By the end of the outbreak, 37 residents and 34 staff members had tested positive to COVID-19.

19 residents died, 17 directly attributed to their COVID-19 diagnosis.

The crisis sparked huge question marks over Anglicare’s handling of the pandemic, and NSW Health’s response.

Photo: Megan Dunn.

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