Every time Sussex Inlet mother Alison Murray drives the Princes Highway to Nowra, memories of the terrible day in December 2015 flood back.
It was a day that started like any other. Alison, Gavin and their two children Darcy and Jules had been working at the wrecking yard at Wandandian, the family business they had owned for eight months.
“Gavin and Darcy had left to drive Nowra to pick up some tools. Jules stayed at the shop with me. They got five minutes up the road,” Alison recalls.
A fully laden refrigerated semi trailer lost control about 500 metres south of the Island Point Road intersection, slid and came to rest on the four-wheel-drive Gavin was driving. He was critically injured but Darcy, then three years old, escaped any serious injury.
It was about 3pm.
“I knew that there was an accident because I had a customer ring up from over at the Basin way who said they couldn’t get through because the highway was closed,” she says.
“They were coming to pick up a part and were just ringing me to say they were running late. At the time I didn’t know that anyone was involved until the police turned up at the shop.”
Alison tells her story around the dining table. It’s the day after Darcy’s sixth birthday. A party hat sits atop a bowl of licorice allsorts next to a new Lego project.
There’s a palpable sense Gavin is still present – in memories and photos and Alison’s determination to get action under way to make the highway safer.
“Every single time I drive to Nowra I’m running through that day and what happened, and the car ride to the hospital.
“It’s a constant reminder, especially when you hear of other accidents, especially so close. I know exactly what these families are going to be going through and it’s horrendous.”
Alison Murray appeals to the federal and state governments to urgently upgrade the Princes Highway.
Apart from the pain and suffering which attends losing a husband in a road accident, there is the convoluted process that follows.
“There’s so much red tape, hoops, things that you have to go through that you really pretty much put your grief aside because you have to go to solicitor’s appointments and psychologist’s appointments and all these things to do with the Compulsory Third Party insurance process,” Alison explains.
“It’s a fight between your solicitors and the solicitors for the insurance company.
Every single time I drive to Nowra I’m running through that day and what happened, and the car ride to the hospitalAlison Murray
“You get seen by specialists nominated by your solicitor and specialists nominated by the insurance company’s solicitor.
“Then you have to see someone nominated by CARS [the NSW Claims Assessment and Resolution Service].”
While Alison was compensated for loss of earnings, she fell just shy of qualifying for compensation for the pain and suffering caused by the accident.
“I was 1 per cent off meeting the threshold to actually be compensated for pain and suffering.
“What we had gone through was not enough to meet that criteria.
“People that don’t know you and don’t know your life judge how you’re coping and how it’s going to affect your life for the rest of your life based on a 20-minute meeting with their set questions that they have to ask.
“They don’t come down and meet with us and sit with us and see exactly what we go through on a day-to-day basis. It’s just how you are on that day at that time for a 20-minute meeting.”
Fortunately, Gavin had a superannuation policy, which combined with the loss of earnings compensation, meant the family was able to stay financially afloat.
“I haven’t had to go through the financial strain that a lot of other people probably would have to. But that still doesn’t take away from the emotional strain,” Alison says.
The widow contacted Fairfax Media after learning about the FIX IT NOW campaign. She wanted to add her voice to the growing clamour for a complete highway upgrade south of the Jervis Bay Road turnoff.
“I do wonder if it had been a dual carriageway, if there had been a divider on that road, whether the outcome would have been the same.
“I don’t think so because the truck driver had gone across the other side of the road.
“A lot of the accidents lately have been head-ons, people just drifting to the other side of the road. If you had a dual carriageway with proper entrances and exits I feel it would definitely reduce the road toll.”
Alison hopes that by telling her story, she can get the message to the state and federal governments that a highway upgrade is about more than money.
“It’s not about money and that’s what people don’t realise. A lot of people say, ‘Oh yeah, there’s been an accident. Yeah, it’s sad.” But until it actually happens to you, you don’t realise the impact that it has and not just on us as a family, as a community, as an extended family, as business people.
“You want to scream and shout but you’re not being listened to. You’re not being heard. It’s like what’s happened to us doesn’t matter. Our whole life has been turned upside down but that doesn’t mean anything.”
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