Young driver dies in Grafton doctor?s arms
By TOBY WALKER
A YOUNG P-plate driver died in the arms of a Grafton doctor on the Pacific Highway yesterday after the 17-year-old had reportedly swerved to miss a kangaroo before crashing his car into a tree.
Dr Raymond Jones had been heading to work in Grafton when he approached a line of northbound traffic banked back from the scene of the accident at Halfway Creek.
He and off-duty Grafton ambulance officer Trevor Green, who was also stuck in the traffic jam, rushed to offer their assistance to the young man and his three passengers trapped in the crushed wreckage of the Hyundai Excel.
According to Dr Jones, the young man was pulled from the vehicle unconscious, suffering what was believed to be serious internal injuries.
Despite efforts to revive him in a nearby ambulance, the young man died in Dr Jones' arms a short time later. Still shaken by the ordeal, Dr Jones warned lives would continue to be lost regularly along the highway until it was upgraded to a full dual carriageway.
It was not the first time Dr Jones had seen the horror of the highway up close.
He was among the first on the scene to treat victims of the Cowper bus crash which claimed 20 lives in 1989.
While the young man fought for his life on the roadside, a helicopter was en-route from Lismore to airlift his 13-yearold front seat female passenger who was left with serious head and arm injuries.
A 17-year-old male and 14year-old female travelling in the back seat escaped serious injury and were taken to Grafton Base Hospital for treatment.
The friends, from Toormina near Coffs Harbour on the NSW mid-north coast, had left Surfers Paradise for home about 6am yesterday, police said.
They stopped at Ballina for a break then crashed about 20km south of Grafton.
Relatives were still to be notified of the crash by police yesterday afternoon before the names of the victims could be released.
According to Acting Inspector Steve Black, the car swerved to miss a kangaroo while driving south on the dual carriageway before crossing the highway and colliding with a gum tree.
There were no witnesses to the accident but passing motorists alerted emergency services.
Traffic on the highway was stopped around 10.30am as police, firefighters, ambulance officers and SES workers scrambled across the road to free the injured teenagers from the wreckage.
Two tow-truck drivers attached chains to their vehicles to create a pulley system that lifted the car's crumpled chassis from around the young man before he could be freed from the car through its rear hatch.
The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter arrived from Lismore around the same time to airlift the 13-year-old female passenger, who was in a criti- cal condition, to Coffs Harbour Hospital.
It is believed arrangements were being made yesterday afternoon to airlift her to an intensive care unit in Sydney.
Yesterday's accident takes the number of deaths on the stretch of highway between Grafton and Coffs Harbour to five in the past 15 days.