SURVIVE THE DRIVE: Dalby Burnett district crime prevention coordinator senior constable Dan O'Hara speaking of a terrible tragedy he responded to in 1994 near Goondiwindi. Picture: Sam Turner
SURVIVE THE DRIVE: Dalby Burnett district crime prevention coordinator senior constable Dan O'Hara speaking of a terrible tragedy he responded to in 1994 near Goondiwindi. Picture: Sam Turner

Christmas death of 7yo girl still haunts Dalby policeman 26 years on

THE horrifying sight of a young girl lying dead next her Christmas presents on a southwest Queensland road is still seared into the mind of a Dalby policeman 26 years on.

Dalby Burnett district crime prevention co-ordinator senior constable Dan O'Hara recalled the tragic moment police found the body of a seven-year-old girl after a catastrophic head on collision.

Senior constable O’Hara said he hoped re-telling this catastrophic crash and traumatic scene will spur Western Downs drivers to exercise caution for National Road Safety Week between November 15 - 22, and these upcoming holidays.

In the days following Christmas in 1994, senior constable O’Hara was called to a small town just outside of Goondiwindi called Yelarbon.

“A family was travelling from Melbourne to visit their family up north in Innisfail over the Christmas break,” he said.

“They were actually on their way back travelling south, and it appears the father was terribly tired, as there was no suggestion of alcohol.”

Dalby Burnett district crime prevention co-ordinator senior constable Dan O'Hara. Picture: Sam Turner
Dalby Burnett district crime prevention co-ordinator senior constable Dan O'Hara. Picture: Sam Turner

The family of four was heading south in a Ford Sedan when the driver, and father of the family, allegedly fell asleep at the wheel and began to veer off into oncoming traffic.

Senior constable O’Hara said two tourists travelling in a Nissan Patrol in the opposite direction saw the sedan coming their way, and immediately tried to evade the 100km/h missile.

“The Patrol has attempted to get as far off the road as they possibly could, but they just couldn’t do it in time,” he said.

“The sedan has hit the front corner of the bullbar on the Nissan and tore the entire driver’s side of the car off, with the young girl in the rear passenger seat thrown from the car.

“The Nissan then rolled over, while the sedan spun off into the scrub.”

Both adults in the front seat of the sedan suffered extensive injuries, however the young girl died on impact after hitting the road.

Arriving on scene as one of the first responders, senior constable O’Hara found the young girl lying with her Christmas presents strewn across the road from the boot of the vehicle.

“There she was, lying in the middle of the road, next to snakes and ladders, teddy bears, and Barbie dolls,” he said.

“She barely had a mark on her, but the image just burns into your mind, and it’s something I will remember for the rest of my life.”

The girl would be 33-years-old this year, with senior constable O’Hara reflecting on the extraordinary loss their family suffered on that day.

“It was a great tragedy that occurred in the days after Christmas, however people need to remember terrible incidents like this don’t just occur on holidays, they occur everyday,” he said.

A police officer carrying teddy bear salvaged from wreckage of double fatality car accident 40km from Mundubbera in 2009.
A police officer carrying teddy bear salvaged from wreckage of double fatality car accident 40km from Mundubbera in 2009.

“They need to understand that they occur daily, but people seem to think they’re more prevalent at Easter, or on the school holidays.

“This horrible event occurred in 1994, and it would be affect their family forever.

“26 years is not enough time to heal from a tragedy like that.

“I often think about what that child could’ve been if she was still alive today, and I wonder what the world was deprived because of her death.”

National Road Safety Week runs annually as an awareness campaign to highlight the impact of road trauma on Australia roads.

Every year, 1200 people are killed and another 44,000 are seriously injured on Australian roads according to the Australia Automobile Association.

For Road Safety Week this week, police will promote each day an important message for drivers on Australian roads to avoid becoming another needless statistic.

Some of the key messages include:

Sunday November 15 – World Day of remembrance for road traffic victims

Monday November 16 – Set an example for others and drive safely

Tuesday November 17 – Safe driving for work

Wednesday November 18 – Keep our emergency services, roadside assistance, and roadside workers safe

Thursday November 19 – Vulnerable road users (pedestrians, children, seniors, people with a disability)

Friday November 20 – Regional and remote road users

Saturday November 21 – Cyclists and motorcyclists

Sunday November 22 – Arrive home safe for your loved ones

Senior constable O’Hara said driver fatigue and inattention are the main killers on country roads, with uncontrolled intersections in the bush being one of the most dangerous areas for rural road users.

“A person may be driving along for hours, minding their own business, not seeing any other cars, and be unaware of their surroundings,” he said.

“All it takes is someone driving a farm vehicle to be inattentive, and then bang, they’ve got you.”

More than 1100 people have died on Australian roads up to September this year.


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