Man's split-second decision that 'saved his life'

Nick Whigham
·Assistant News Editor
·4-min read

A NSW man is lucky to be alive after being involved in a near head-on collision when he was struck by another driver.

Sven Stephan was driving from his home in John's River on the Mid North Coast on April 24 when he was faced with a "split second" decision near the town of Taree. 

He was on the way to nearby markets to sell honey he makes with his partner Ana Martin. The couple have turned a bee rescue operation into a profitable family business. 

As a driver came in the opposite direction on the highway, “he only had a split second to make a decision", Ms Martin told Yahoo News Australia. 

"He swerved a bit to his left which is why the collision was not a full head-on ... the fact he swerved a little so the other car hit him at an angle rather that straight on probably saved his life," she said.

Sven in market and hospital bed.
Sven's hip was shattered in the accident but it could have been far worse. Source: Facebook/Amber Drop Honey

When Sven realised what had happened, he looked down and saw his phone in his lap and called Ana. 

"I could hear in his voice something was wrong," she recalled. 

By the time she arrived at the scene, she waited for "a nerve-racking hour" as first responders worked to free him from the vehicle before Sven was airlifted to hospital in Newcastle. 

The other driver was fine and stayed to help, allegedly telling the couple he had fallen asleep at the wheel.

Sven underwent surgery on Monday for a badly broken hip, and the recovery is expected to be a long one. 

"When we saw the X-rays, there were a lot of pieces everywhere," Ms Martin said. "It wasn't a clean break".

NSW police were supplied with dashcam footage of the crash and confirmed to Yahoo News Australia on Wednesday an investigation into the incident was ongoing.

"The other driver, a 19-year-old man, was taken to hospital and underwent blood and urine testing, results pending," a police spokesperson said.

On Sunday, a spokesperson said tests were still pending and no charges had been laid.

The couple turned a fascination with bees into a full-time business.
The couple turned a fascination with bees into a full-time business. Source: Facebook/Amber Drop Honey

Crash the latest setback for bee-keeping couple after floods

In a Facebook post on the couple's business page, Ms Martin told customers she would try her best to keep up with honey deliveries while Sven is recovering, admitting it was "super lucky" the outcome wasn't much worse.

"Whilst it looks like Sven has a long road ahead before he can start lifting hives again, we are both aware that he truly got off lightly. Considering the force of the impact, the speed of both cars, and how they looked afterwards, it could have been way worse," she wrote.

"I might be busy playing nurse ... but I will try to resume deliveries, online orders etc, as soon as possible."

The couple started accumulating bees about five years ago after learning about the important role they play in the local ecosystem and doing further research

A few backyard hives soon turned into more and they accumulated about 35 hives in just four months. After they had given their friends "all the honey they could take", the hobby eventually turned into a full-time business.

bees in the wall
When someone finds an unwanted bee hive in the area, Sven probably gets a call. Source: Facebook/Amber Drop Honey

The couple rescue bees, typically from residential and commercial properties, that would otherwise be exterminated.

"Word got around and everyone started calling Sven for the more awkward jobs," Ms Martin said.

"I could see that he loved it, he was really happy working with the bees."

The couple sell their honey to local businesses, at weekend markets and online. But like many others in NSW, difficult conditions from drought and bushfires to recent flooding have made life hard. 

"The last few years between the drought and the bushfires, the seasons haven't been as good as they could have been," Ms Martin said. 

"We lost over 20 hives after the bushfires ... there's been plenty of bee keepers who have lost hives during the [recent] floods, we lost some but not as many as other people."

For now, the focus is on Sven's recovery as he faces six weeks off his feet before a likely difficult rehabilitation. 

"It's going to take a little while for him to get back to normal, whatever normal means after an operation like this."

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