A Melbourne mother is still recovering – and still waiting for answers – after her car was crushed by a falling sign on the Tullamarine Freeway.
The injured woman said she thought her car had been hit by a plane and it was a “miracle” she survived the impact.
The shock accident has triggered a major safety review, but authorities have still not been able to explain what caused the sign to fall.
Nella Lettieri was left with shards from her smashed windscreen in her hair, and in serious pain.
“Head, neck, shoulders, every muscle in my body hurts at the moment,” she said.
As the sign came crashing down on her car, she thought: “It’s too soon, don’t take me just yet.”
The mother-of-three was on her way to pick up one of her daughters when the sign fell out of the blue.
“Lucky it was a four-wheel drive, because if I think I was in [a smaller] car it would have just … I don’t think that I would be here to tell that story,” she said.
Nella’s short stature may have helped save her life. On impact, the car roof collapsed onto her head, but she still had room to duck.
“I thought, ‘am I dreaming? It’s just not stopping’,” she recalled.
“This thing is pounding on the car and it’s just not stopping.”
The shock was compounded by confusion over what had hit her car.
Her first thought was that her car had been struck by a plane from the nearby Essendon airport.
She was near the scene of a crash which claimed five lives almost two years ago.
The 55-year-old found herself trapped in the wreckage of her car, but two brave motorists stopped to drag her to safety.
“I looked at the car and I thought, ‘oh my god, I got out’, and they said ‘we need to move away, because it could blow up’,” Nella said.
Paramedics treated her at the scene before taking her to hospital.
She is now seeking an explanation from road authorities over what went wrong.
“Let’s see who steps up, I suppose, because I’m lucky to be here, really lucky to be here,” she said.
VicRoads has been unable to confirm what caused the sign to fall, but they have checked another six large signs and gantries and found them to be safe.
Safety audits will be expanded to include other major roads in Melbourne including the Westgate, Monash and Eastern freeways.