Memories of 3 Musketeers
The O'Shea family at the crash memorial. Picture: Mogens Johansen/The West Australian.

Torben O'Shea clutches his biscuit as he stares at the intricately carved stone.

He is too young to understand it marks the grave of his three elder siblings, who died a year ago in the same horrific car crash he miraculously survived.

As he totters around happily in the dappled light of the tall trees, he is too young to appreciate the lifeline he has been to his parents Maria and Brian in a sea of grief.

The O'Sheas laid the memorial in the peaceful forest graveyard during an emotional pilgrimage from their Pemberton home to mark the first anniversary of their children's deaths.

It provides some comfort to have them buried with Dr O'Shea's mother, Kate Hvalkof, who died before the couple married. But it brings no peace to take another symbolic step in their new reality - sparked when a speeding driver struck as Dr O'Shea drove the children to visit friends during a holiday in her native Denmark.

Mr O'Shea, who had been with his father-in-law and arrived at the nearby crash scene fearing his whole family was gone, said that day would never leave him.

"But it's not the memory of the crash, it's the fact that we don't have three children running around," he explained. "It's about the things that won't happen for the rest of our lives."

Sorry: Lasse Burholt at the scene of the accident. Picture: Mogens Johansen/ The West Australian.

_The Weekend West _was in Denmark with the O'Sheas as they marked the first year without Soren, 11, Saoirse, 9, and Connor, 3.

It was a difficult time made even worse when 18-month-old Torben wandered away while they picked raspberries.

They spent a terrifying seven hours praying for his safe return before he was found in the forest.

Relatives and close friends supported the couple as they laid the gravestone and installed a Perspex etching of their children at the crash site.

It is hard to imagine the traumatic scenes that shattered the country intersection a year ago.

Leafy green trees and fields line the quiet road. Trees shade the mossy rock where they mounted the etching, sunlight lightly touching the flowers left for the three innocent children.

The O'Sheas hoped the visual reminder of their loss would stop dangerous driving and save lives.

But the council has removed the etching after a local man, who had been at the scene in the aftermath of the crash, complained that a permanent reminder of the tragic event was too distressing.

Council staff also decided the memorial could pose a road safety risk.

But the situation caused heart-ache for the O'Sheas, who were not told of the decision and initially feared the precious etching had been stolen.

"It appears not to have occurred to them to inform us, nor did it occur to them that their action might adversely affect us or other relatives and friends," Dr O'Shea said.

The anniversary return to the crash site was traumatic for Dr O'Shea. "I almost had this sensation that if I could stop us going there then perhaps I could stop the crash," she said.

"But then the realistic part of your brain says it's already happened and going out there is not going to make it any different."

Mr O'Shea said he would never forgive Lasse Burholt, particularly because he believed he did not take responsibility quickly enough for the children's deaths.

"I would have forgiven him if he had come out at the beginning, put his hand up and said, 'I am completely and totally sorry for what I did that day, I can't believe my actions caused such carnage on the road'," he said.

Mr Burholt said he told every-one at the crash scene that he was speeding and did not know why the O'Sheas were not told. He is not critical of police but admitted the press told him he was charged with involuntary manslaughter several hours before police.

Dr O'Shea formally complained about the way police handled the inquiry. They told her the investigation was done thoroughly and properly.

The loss of the children casts a shadow over every day.

"Every time we go somewhere and we say 'Wow this is lovely', and you have a fleeting sense of this is how life should be, then you realise they're not there," Mr O'Shea said.

"It doesn't matter what you're doing, you instantly feel regret and you can start to chastise yourself for actually feeling good for a second."

The couple are trying to fill the void with the charity they created in their children's honour.

The 3 Musketeers Children's Fund seeks projects that improve the lives of disadvantaged and orphaned children in underdeveloped countries.

It is painful to be known as "those parents who lost three children" but they do not want to deny their children's existence or the joy they brought to their lives.

Soren was a thoughtful and caring elder brother, Saoirse was happy and inquisitive and Connor was the family's ragamuffin.

"It was very difficult at first but now when people ask if we have one child, we say, 'No, we have four, the others are with their grandmother'," they said.

It's about the things that won't happen for the rest

of our lives."Brian O'Shea

The West Australian

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