A heartbroken Queensland mum has revealed the agony of watching helplessly in the rear-view mirror as her eight-year-old daughter was killed in the car that flipped and rolled behind her.
Tegan Mitchell, from the Gold Coast, is living what she calls a “life sentence” after her daughter Olivia Douglas died in a fatal car crash in Central Queensland more than two years ago.
She clearly remembers that fateful day when her little girl set out so excited about the day out with her netball team.
It was September 14, 2018 and Tegan, her partner Tim Stark and their children Noah, 12, Olivia and Lexie, 1, were headed for a netball competition in Bundaberg, about six hours away.
“I can still remember her words, and how excited she was to go,” Tegan told Yahoo News Australia ahead of Fatality Free Friday on May 28.
“She had all her gear with her and if the other teams weren’t winning she was going to show them how to.”
At Gympie the group took a scheduled break which was “always the plan”, Tegan said.
The girl in the other car had an iPad with her. Olivia, being the “socialite” of the group, wanted to watch a movie with her mate.
“I remember so clearly. Something inside me said, ‘no’. But I didn’t want to be one of those mums who said ‘no’,” a tearful Tegan said as she recalled the tragedy that turned her life upsides down.
Noah had also asked but Tegan told him he had to stay with them. She was concerned Lexie needed the company in the backseat but they would swap over at the next stop.
“We never got to that,” Tegan said.
The plan was for Tegan to call the other car at Childers.
As the group took off down the Bruce Highway, not far from the stop, Mr Stark told Ms Mitchell he noticed something in the rear-view mirror.
“We noticed a car was flipping,” she said.
“We realised that was the car she was in.”
The pair stopped the car and started running towards the wreckage. Olivia’s car and another car had collided.
A bystander pulled over to help. Tegan still hasn’t forgotten the look on his face as he pulled Olivia from the wreckage and realised she was dead.
“He just wouldn’t let her go,” she said.
Queensland Police said two people died at the scene – Olivia and a 52-year-old man driving the other car.
The driver of Olivia’s car had fallen asleep at the wheel.
To this day, Tegan has wondered why the driver didn’t stop, but chose to drive.
Road toll heading in the wrong direction
Russell White, the founder of the Australian Road Safety Foundation, called Olivia’s death a “terrible tragedy”.
Mr White said Australians need to change this “she’ll be right” assumption on driver fitness and fatigue.
“Road safety also isn’t only about the risk of being caught – the fines, the demerit points,” he said.
“It’s about the implications of something going wrong.
"Five demerit points is nothing compared to someone being injured or killed.
“I would encourage people to think about how they behave on the road. Our road toll is heading in the wrong direction.”
Australia’s road toll has gone up one per cent in the past 12 months to April 2021 with 1,133 deaths on our roads, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics.
One in five fatal crashes due to driver fatigue
According to the Transport Accident Commission, about 20 per cent of fatal road crashes are due to driver fatigue.
Tegan said her daughter’s death has left “a big hole” in her family.
“When you’re on the road you don’t always think it’s going to happen to you,” she said.
“People go by crashes and think, ‘oh, those poor people’. But once it happens to you, it never goes away.
"It doesn’t go away. It just gets worse. It’s a life sentence.”
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