By TOBY WALKER
A 59-YEAR-OLD Iluka woman had to be cut from her car and airlifted to Lismore Base Hospital yesterday after a high speed head-on collision at the Romiaka Channel bridge.
The accident brought traffic between Yamba and the Pacific Highway to a standstill.
Emergency services vehicles threaded their way through the banked-up traffic to reach the accident scene around 10.55am to free the woman and her driver from their wrecked Tarago van.
The front of the van had been crushed inwards after it was clipped by a swerving truck, pinning the woman's legs, trapping her in the vehicle.
Several people who had been fishing nearby rushed to the scene, pulling part of the car's crushed chassis free to try to alleviate the pain from serious leg fractures the woman had suffered in the crash.
Although trapped and in shock, she remained conscious and talked to Yamba fisherman Brett Parrott until firefighters arrived to cut the driver's side door away and free her.
Within 20 minutes the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter arrived, landing in a nearby paddock.
Ambulance officers treated the woman at the scene before she was airlifted to Lismore where she remained in hospital in a stable condition.
The driver of the Tarago was taken to Maclean District Hospital, but the extent of the injuries was unknown.
Mr Parrott had his fishing rod in the water when he felt the impact of the accident literally shake the bridge.
"I went down there and had a look to make sure she wasn't bleeding or anything like that," Mr Parrott said.
"A friend of mine ... and another gentleman pulled the pillar of the corner of the car off her to free her legs up.
"She was badly hurt and complaining of the pain, I mean I would, too.
"Then a young lady gave us a blanket to keep her warm and we just kept talking to her to keep her mind off her injuries.
"She was telling us she was on her way to a birthday party in Yamba or something like that.
"I don't know how fast they were going but it was a pretty big bang when it hit.
"I felt the vibrations through the bridge from here, then I just dropped my rod and ran over."
According to police, a tip truck had been travelling towards Maclean on the small bridge when traffic ahead of it stopped suddenly, forcing the driver to swerve into the eastbound lane to avoid a collision with the vehicle in front.
The truck braked hard enough to leave dark tyre marks across the road, but could not avoid the Tarago, clipping its front and spinning it around.
The truck came to rest just over the bridge, its back wheels teetering over the muddy banks of the channel just metres from a fishing spot favoured by local anglers looking for baitfish.
A Ford sedan heading for Yamba could not brake in time and slammed into the Tar- ago. No-one in the car was injured.