'He'll never know her': Dad speaks out after daughter dies in freak accident while baby survived

Brooke Rolfe
·News Reporter

The grieving dad of a woman killed after a metal towing component smashed through her windscreen has called on two truck drivers in the area at the time to come forward to help the family find “closure”.

Sarah Tonkin, 37, was killed after her car hit a tree and flipped on Geelong-Bacchus Marsh Road in Balliang East, west of Melbourne, shortly after 2.15pm on Friday.

Her eight-month-old baby boy, Austin, was strapped into a capsule in the back seat at the time and miraculously survived the incident.

His grandad, Richard Tonkin, said on Wednesday it was a case of his daughter “being in the wrong place at the wrong time” and the family was not looking to put the blame on anyone.

Mum killed in Victoria crash Sarah Tonkin with her baby boy, Austin, and husband Gregor Jeffery.
Sarah Tonkin with her baby boy, Austin, and husband Gregor Jeffery. Source: GoFundMe/Sarah Tonkin's Family Fund

“It was an extraordinarily freak accident. We’ve had to accept that it’s happened, Sarah was in the wrong place at the wrong time by about a nanosecond and otherwise, either way it wouldn’t have happened,” Mr Tonkin said.

“If we could get some answers and the police could finish their investigation, it would help to give the family closure.”

Ms Tonkin was the youngest of three children and married to her partner, Gregor Jeffery. The couple had not long ago moved to Jan Juc, a coastal suburb of Torquay.

Dad of Victoria road crash victim Richard Tonkin (pictured) spoke out about his daughter's death.
Richard Tonkin spoke out about his daughter's death on Wednesday. Source: Victoria Police

“They loved living down there by the sea and the fresh air. They were thoroughly enjoying their lives down there,” Mr Tonkin said.

The couple both work in IT and Ms Tonkin had recently started a consultancy business so she could work from home while caring for Austin.

He explained how their final moments together were spent at the funeral of his sister-in-law earlier on Friday, where they waited together for a few minutes before Ms Tonkin asked an employee to use a bathroom so she could change Austin.

“We kissed goodbye and she said, ‘Don’t wait, you go to the burial’, so I walked off.”

Mr Tonkin recalled his daughter wanting to drive home so she could feed Austin instead of staying for the burial.

Image of the pintle hook responsible for crash that caused Victorian mum's death on Friday.
Police released this image of the pintle hook responsible for the crash. Source: Victoria Police

“The what-ifs and why, and all that stuff, you can ask all those questions. If she hadn’t of asked the chap, and if she had gone straight to the bathroom, those vital seconds would have passed and it wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

In addition to the devastating incident, Mr Tonkin said Austin will have forgotten his mum within a month.

“He, of course, doesn’t know what happened. That’s the sad part really, that he will never know her, but he’ll know her through Gregor and through the photos and so on.”

Baby escaped unmarked

Aside from a small scratch, Austin avoided any injury.

He has had to transition to being bottle fed with his mum no longer able to breast feed.

“It was extraordinary, if you saw the mangled wreck, the car had hit the tree and then rolled over onto its side, and he was fine.

“He was just lying on his side in the capsule, completely unmarked apart from the tiny scratch.

“It was a tragedy that it happened, and a miracle that he survived.”

Car accident in Victoria where mum was killed and baby survived.
Sarah Tonkin was killed in a car accident in Victoria, while her baby boy Austin survived. Source: Nine News

Police released a photo of the towing component, called a pintle hook, that was responsible for the crash, as well as security footage showing a flat tray truck and b-double tip-truck passing by a nearby address around the time of the incident.

Investigators believe the pintle hook fell from an unknown vehicle travelling north on the Geelong-Bacchus Marsh Road about 2.15pm on Friday, before a white b-double tip-truck ran over it and flicked it into the path of Ms Tonkin’s car.

Police located the two trucks on Wednesday afternoon, enquiries are ongoing.

“We are not looking at this stage to prosecute anyone but it is important for Richard and his family that we are able to explain how this tragic incident has occurred,” Mr Frith said.

A GoFundMe has been established to support the family in the wake of Ms Tonkin’s death.

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