Alan Jones has fought back tears as he talked about the people who died in the Queensland floods at Grantham in 2011.
The radio broadcaster entered the witness box in the Brisbane Supreme Court on Thursday to give evidence in the judge-only defamation trial.
The prominent Toowoomba-based Wagner brothers are suing the outspoken talkback host, Harbour Radio, 4BC and journalist Nick Cater over 32 broadcasts in 2014 and 2015.
John, Denis, Neill and Joe allege they were accused of the deaths of 12 people in the town of Grantham during the 2011 floods, when one of the walls of the Lockyer Valley quarry they owned collapsed.
They claim they were also subjected to constant abuse, including accusations of a high-level cover-up with politicians, corruption and intimidation relating to their Wellcamp Airport.
Jones choked back tears as he recalled the stories of the people who died at Grantham, particularly that of a mother who lost the grasp of her one-year-old daughter when the wall of water gushed through the town.
“One of the reasons I have tried to continue to get answers … is that these people have no answers,” he said, referring to the fact the first inquiry into the floods only featured one-and-a-half pages about what happened at Grantham.
The radio broadcaster said he had contact with two people from the region in the days following the tragedy. Jones said he then put out a call on air to people who might have similar stories.
“There was a whole heap of people who got in touch with me,” he said.
Jones gave evidence they all said the same thing: the wall – or bund – around the quarry was man-made.
“The Wagners kept on saying there was no bund … whereas every eyewitness gave evidence that they’d seen this bund going up and up and up,” he told the court.
Jones said he became a “pivotal point” for people in the area who didn’t feel they were being heard.
“The one thing that hurt the most was that they weren’t believed,” he said.
When asked by his barrister, Robert Anderson QC, if the comments he made about the family on air were “opinions honestly held” by him, Jones said they were.
The trial continues.