Couple killed in highway accident
TWO Lower Clarence teenagers were recovering in hospital last night after being involved in a horror Pacific Highway crash that left two people dead yesterday morning.
Maclean High School students Travis McDonagh and Gunther Barwick were airlifted by the Northern Region Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter to Lismore Base Hospital after the head-on collision, about 15 kilometres south of New Italy about 8am.
They were reported to be in a satisfactory condition last night.
A Sydney man travelling behind a couple from Nerang, Queensland, who were killed, was the first person on the horrific scene.
“It was so sad, there was absolutely nothing I could do,” the visibly shaken motorist, who asked not to be named, said.
“All I could do was hold the lady’s hand and pray for her.
“She was semi-conscious but she wasn’t in pain.”
The 61-year-old man and his 64-year-old wife were travelling south in their blue 1990 Holden Commodore sedan at about 8am when their car and a similar north-bound Commodore driven by the 17-year-old Lower Clarence P-plater collided.
The accident occurred at Tabbimoble, about 15 kilometres south of New Italy, in wet and slippery conditions at the notorious black-spot stretch of the Pacific Highway between Ballina and Grafton.
Both lanes of the Pacific Highway were closed until noon and traffic was diverted to the Summerland Way at Woodburn and Maclean.
It is believed the teenager may have failed to negotiate a right-hand bend after overtaking a truck, and crossed over into the south-bound oncoming traffic.
Ambulance district manager Greg Powell was overseeing the operation and reported the young driver and his 17-year-old passenger were taken from the scene by ambulance and conveyed to the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter which landed one kilometre to the south.
Police said the driver also underwent mandatory blood and urine tests.
Richmond Local Area Commander, Superintendent Bruce Lyons, attended the crash scene within an hour of it being reported and made an emotional plea to drivers to slow down.
“This is a very sad situation. When I walk down the road there to see two lives lost; I am just lost for words,” he said.
“It appears speed was a factor in this accident. The poor man in the car had no chance and the witnesses here did their best to support the dear lady who shortly after lost her life.
“It is clear when it comes to tragedies like this we can see how fragile life is on the roads. Drivers must remember when we get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle we are behind the wheel of a potential weapon.
“Everyone must drive to the road conditions in a safe and defensive manner.”
Police from Woodburn and Lismore attended with the Richmond Highway Patrol and the Ballina Crash Investigation Unit.
Ambulance officers from Yamba, Maclean and Evans Head treated the injured teenagers and several bystanders for minor injuries sustained while assisting the victims.
The truck driver, who is believed to have witnessed the accident, was treated for shock at the scene.
The man who initially assisted the couple is a regular traveller on the Pacific Highway and, though shocked, was not surprised the crash occurred.
“This section of the highway is a very unsafe road, especially in the wet,” he said.
“I drive between Sydney and Brisbane all the time. I really wish I wasn’t here today. I feel so sad for the couple, and for the younger, obviously inexperienced driver.
“A guy came by just before saying how all the bleeding-hearts would now be out whingeing about the highway – but the fact is it’s ludicrous the road is like this in this day and age.
“It’s one of the busiest roads in Australia and it’s just two undivided lanes. It’s radically different to the road to Canberra.
“It’s no wonder they call it the Pathetic Highway.”
Julie O’Driscol, owner of the nearby New Italy Cafe and Museum, said they were used to serious accidents on the notorious stretch.