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Tragedy just metres away

Krystal Gray with her girls Claudia, 3, Josslyn, 5, and Olivia Brown, 6, next to the fence which was destroyed by a truck on the Pacific Hwy in June 2010.
Krystal Gray with her girls Claudia, 3, Josslyn, 5, and Olivia Brown, 6, next to the fence which was destroyed by a truck on the Pacific Hwy in June 2010. Adam Hourigan

WHAT sort of tragedy would it take for the powers that be to fast-track the duplication of the Pacific Hwy?

It is almost two years since Olivia Brown, 6, and her sisters Claudia, 3, and Josslyn, 2, were metres from being victims of a stretch of road that risks being ignored again after the NSW Government failed this week to match the Federal Government's $3.56 billion commitment to upgrade.

Her three baby girls asleep in the next room, Krystal Gray thought a bunk bed had fallen over when she was awoken by a thunderous thud about 4.30am on Wednesday, June 30, 2010.

"I looked outside and there was a truck sitting outside my window ... it scared the crap out of me," she recalled this week as part of The Examiner's Fix the Pacific Hwy - No Excuses campaign.

"There were sparks flying everywhere from the wires that had all been torn down."

Ms Gray remembers it being particularly cold on the morning a northbound semi-trailer missed the first left-hand bend into Ulmarra, crossed the highway and rolled onto its side just metres from her front door.

The truck took out the family's side fence and its load of recycled plastic was strewn for hundreds of metres.

"He rolled over onto his side; that's the only thing that saved him from coming into my house," Ms Gray said.

"The kids woke up petrified and screaming; they still have nightmares about it. Some nights they wake up dreaming about a truck screaming around the corner."

"But the trucks just kept on coming; there were live powerlines on the road and they just didn't stop."

"I thought the man would have been dead but he only had a few scratches on his hand," she said. "He fell asleep, but I don't think he was charged with anything."

Ms Gray said she had lived in Ulmarra all her life but had only become fearful of the highway since her rude awakening two years ago.

"My dad bought this house in 1985 and I remember people saying then that Ulmarra would be bypassed within 10 years; that's why he bought the house.

"That was six years after the Cowper crash. I remember that Cowper was supposed to be the first section upgraded and it still hasn't been done where the crash happened.

"Now it's just getting worse; there are more trucks driving to tighter timelines."

Ms Gray said she'd love to see speed cameras on both sides of the road at Ulmarra in the short term but called for an Ulmarra bypass urgently, considering the high number of crashes in the small village.

"In some ways we want to sell the house and move, but we love it here. We just want the highway diverted as they've been promising for so long," she said.

An 11-year-old boy was killed in his sleep by a wayward truck at Urunga in January and the ensuing campaign led to Urunga being lifted in priority for an upgrade.

While the Feds have agreed to match NSW's $1.5 billion commitment - the remaining $2 billion of Commonwealth money may very well go to other projects across the nation unless matching funding can be found.

Should NSW borrow the funds? Should the Commonwealth increase it's funding? Should state money be diverted from other projects?

Topics:  family, pacific highway, tragedy, truck


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