A 37-year-old mother died in hospital last night after she and her two children were pulled from the smouldering wreckage of a head-on crash east of Perth yesterday.
The woman had been driving east towards Baker’s Hill with her four-year-old boy and one-year-old girl when her Toyota sedan and a Mazda 6 collided near the El Caballo roadhouse about 11am. A 76-year-old man was driving the Mazda.
A fly-in, fly-out worker dived into the smoke-filled Toyota to rescue the children before kicking the driver’s door off the wrecked vehicle to help free their mother.
Frank Tonga was driving on the Great Eastern Highway from Northam to see his financial adviser in South Perth when he came across the wreckage.
The Toyota was being driven east to Baker’s Hill by the 37-year-old mother of a four-year-old boy and a one-year-old girl.
Mr Tonga said the crash must have happened moments before he arrived. His wife Ann noticed flames under the Toyota.
“I heard yelling and cries of ‘help me’,” Mr Tonga said. “I looked through the driver’s door and she was covered in blood, and there were two children in the back.
Another passing motorist ripped open a rear passenger door just as Mr Tonga was about to smash a window to rescue the children.
“I dived in to pull them out but there was that much thick smoke I could hardly see,” he said. “I managed to release their buckles and pull them out.”
Mr Tonga jumped on the roof of the car to use his legs to force the driver’s door open. Other passers-by helped him drag the mother from the wreckage.
The impact left the registration number of the Toyota imprinted on the Mazda’s front bumper.
Yesterday, the boy was in a stable condition and his sister was serious but stable. The 76-year-old man had serious injuries but was said to be stable.
“When I saw those flames I thought, ‘I’m not going to let them die like that’,” Mr Tonga said.
“She was saying ‘please, help me, help me’ and there were kids as well,” Mr Tonga said. “I couldn’t just leave them there, I had to do everything I could to get them out.
“I don’t want any credit for it — it’s just something you have to do instinctively.”
Mr Tonga admitted he was concerned for his own safety and thought of his own family — including his own 16-month-old daughter — as he reached into the smoke-filled car.
“I have my own family but I thought if it explodes, it explodes, I’m just going to have to take that risk. Having a family of my own, I couldn’t let them burn alive,” he said. “It’s just one of those things you have to do, you don’t even think about it really. I honestly thought about my life for about a second. I had to do my best.”
Insp. Ian Clarke praised the efforts of Mr Tonga and the others who helped, describing their actions as extremely brave.
He said the lives of the young children were saved because they were restrained in child seats.
Witnesses are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.