The highway collision near Tabbimoble on Friday in which two people died.
The highway collision near Tabbimoble on Friday in which two people died.

Premier still to inspect highway

IT is now 40 days since the four North Coast mayors invited NSW Premier Kristina Keneally to the region to inspect the condition of the Pacific Highway and in that time three people have died in the Clarence region alone from avoidable accidents.

The mayors are still waiting for the Premier to accept the invitation.

On February 11 a Victorian man was involved in a collision with a B-double just north of Ulmarra and later died in hospital.

Then on Friday a 61-year-old man and his 64-year-old wife from Nerang died when their vehicle and a car carrying two Lower Clarence teenagers, Travis McDonagh, 17, and Gunther Barwick, 16, collided.

Both collisions were head-on and, according to Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson, would not have occurred had there been dual divided carriageway.

One of the first drivers on the scene on Friday held the 64-year-old woman’s hand as she died.

The Sydney man, who did not want to be named, said he fully supported a campaign to make the highway dual carriageway.

“If it was dual carriageway that accident would just not have happened,” he said.

“There would still be accidents with people losing control, but that sort of accident with collision speeds of up to 200kmh would not occur.”

The man, a former North Coast resident, said he got to the scene probably about one minute after the collision and went first to the vehicle containing the two young Maclean teenagers.

“I was surprised by how light their injuries were and the first thing I said to one of them was ‘you will be all right’,” he said.

“Then I looked at the other car and thought ‘oh my God’.

“My main concern was for the woman in the car who was still alive, but only just.

“She was showing signs of life, but we couldn’t get the door open. It was terrible. You want to do something, but in this case you couldn’t.”

He said he had been one of the first on the scene to a number of crashes, but Friday’s was by far the worst.

Cr Williamson said that 40 days ago he and mayors from Ballina, Coffs Harbour and Richmond Valley wrote to the Premier and Opposition leader, Barry O’Farrell, saying the highway needed urgent attention and invited them to tour the section from Coffs Harbour to Ballina. Mr O’Farrell has since accepted the invitation.

“We didn’t take writing to them lightly,” he said.

“Since then there have been three deaths on the highway (in the Clarence). That again brings great sorrow to the community. If there was dual carriageway in the area between Ballina and Coffs Harbour it would avoid those head-ons.”

The Sydney driver also urged motorists to show more courtesy on the road.

“It would be helpful if practical advice about courtesy on the roads became part of the road safety regime of the RTA and the police, instead of the narrow focus on speed,” he said.

“It would be nice to see something in the driver handbook and road regulations advising motorists to slow down and accommodate drivers who are overtaking.” 

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