Car Accident Number Three!? – 1996

It is often thought that for a person to have had one car accident in their lifetime is bad enough, yet quite a normal occurrence given how many of us drive. To have had two car accidents in a lifetime is still not bad odds, but the words “bad luck” certainly get thrown around.

However, you really do begin to wonder just who in the universal grand scheme of things has got it in for you. Especially if every single one of those accidents is not your doing and completely unavoidable.

During early November of 1996 Daniel and I planned a trip over to the West Coast of South Australia to stay with his parents at a holiday property they owned.

At the time we had planned this trip together Daniel and I had known each other no more than a few months, if even that, and the majority of that time was more in passing.

I was a divorced single mother when we met. While Daniel was a newly separated man, his wife having ended their marriage a couple of months prior to our meeting and forcing him into the unwilling role of a part time father to his son Jake.

Our relationship so new at the time of this trip, we had only gone on our first date on the 12th of October, for which Daniel had asked me to attend his cousin’s wedding with him.

However, this trip seemed like the perfect idea to get away and spend some time getting to know one another outside of prying eyes, along with us both getting to know one another’s son and the boys getting to know each other as well.

1996 - The Third Car Accident - Photo 1 - 3072 x 2048
Late 1996, Daniel, Rhys, Jake and I. Rhys just shy of his 4th birthday and Jake having just celebrated his 2nd birthday.

Unfortunately for Rhys and I this was to be another case of carefree plans being tragically altered at a moment’s notice through yet another car accident.

On the afternoon of Wednesday the 6th of November we packed up the car and headed off for the coastal town where we had planned to stay.

The location we were travelling to was around an eight hour drive away. This was also a drive that Daniel knew well as his family had been holidaying in the region since his grandfather had discovered the location before Daniel was even born.

The best time to make this journey with young children was late afternoon and throughout the evening into the night, which was exactly what we did.

Throughout the long drive we listened to music, chatted and joked. Daniel and I kept the boys amused by singing along stupidly with songs that were playing. We also pointed out sights seen along the way, watching out for kangaroos, emus and birds not seen in suburban areas, while giving the boys travel munchies here and there.

Eventually the boys fell asleep around the time it would have been a normal bedtime for each of them, while Daniel and I continued to joke around and chat to keep ourselves entertained throughout what was left of the journey.

As the evening pushed well into the night I found myself becoming extremely tired and began to doze between conversations with Daniel.

The moments I was awake, enjoying those more intimate conversations that the ambiance of the night air seems to bring to a romance as new as ours was.

Driving along, the night could not have been more perfect. The instant connection that Daniel and I had experienced in the moment of our first meeting, becoming all the more tangible throughout this drive as we shared our thoughts and lives with each another through deepening conversation.

Everything felt so positive, maybe the rose coloured gasses of new found love?

Maybe it was just the fact that as we talked I felt a positivity toward the future I hadn’t felt for far too long amidst the never ending emotional and physical pain from my past?

A past that had left the emotional scars from my failed marriage with Rhys’ father and a broken engagement to another man prior to my new found connection with Daniel.

The emotional scars of failed relationships coupled together with the nagging physical pain that resided in my body from the injuries of the first two car accidents, along with  the self doubt and lack of confidence that had been created in me throughout my Work Cover Experience.

These were all constant reminders that fate was not always on my side.

And I was only just about to turn 24!

Immersed in the ease and comfort I felt with Daniel, I could not have been in a happier or more positive place that night.

However, in an instant all that happiness and positivity turned to dread!

Not even an hour out from our destination I was woken from a moment of dozing by a jarring as Daniel lost control of the car.

Driving along the maintained dirt road between the final town along our journey and our destination, Daniel was startled by what appeared to be a small kangaroo. I say “appeared to be” as it was a dark night and being out Whoop Whoop with no street lighting it could have been anything that crossed our path that night.

Swerving to the left to miss the roo or whatever it was, Daniel over-corrected ever so slightly, causing the car to veer off across the other side of the road.

As soon as Daniel over-corrected my eyes sprung wide open.

Everything at that point felt like we were moving in slow motion as we veered across and off the road.

The car rolling on to the driver’s side as it dropped down a small embankment at the road’s edge and continued on into the scrub.

Ploughing  through the dirt, ripping up large rocks and small trees, the car up on the driver’s side, it felt like the car would never stop moving.

Then just as quickly as I had been awakened the car came to an abrupt halt.

The car up on its side, driver’s door to the ground, coming to rest against a tree in the scrub while a tree in front of the car was ripped out of the ground, bringing the terror to an end.

Daniel and I looked at each other stunned as I felt my body shake with the terror that had not yet left me.

Rhys remained silent before his panic and desperate desire to get out of the car took over. Having been sitting behind Daniel he was closest to the ground, had unbuckled his seatbelt and was standing on the door that was to the ground, longing to escape.

Jake, behind me, was held firm by the seatbelt of his toddler seat. Hanging in the air and babbling in a sleepy voice, “What happened Daddy?”. Thankfully he was too young to understand all that had occurred and remained calm.

Somehow Daniel managed to climb up past me and pull himself out of the car through my passenger side window, while I remained in my seat, held in place by my seatbelt.

Without thinking, as soon as Daniel was out of the car I somehow thought it would be a good idea to just simply remove my seatbelt.

As I took my seatbelt off I immediately dropped toward the driver’s side door, the ground, the car still up on its side. Luckily as I fell reflexes took over and I managed to extend my legs to break the fall and stand upright.

One at a time I passed the boys to Daniel through the passenger widows.

Knowing that Jake remained secure to this point while Rhys was in such a panic and already out of his seat, I first helped Rhys up and out to Daniel.

Then Daniel and I worked together through the passenger side back door window to carefully unbuckle Jake and have Daniel pull him from the car.

1996 - The Third Car Accident - Photo 2 - 3072 x 2048
The side that was to the ground.
1996 - The Third Car Accident - Photo 3 - 3072 x 2048
Photos of the car taken while waiting for the insurance assessment.

Once the boys were safely out of the car Daniel helped me to climb out of the front passenger window before I took both of the boys several meters away while Daniel lowered the car back onto its wheels.

Given we were out Whoop Whoop there was the slightest little bit of hope that the car would at least limp its way to our destination.

I mean common sense made it pretty clear that car was not driving us anywhere and we were going to be stranded for a good time to come….. But even in the most dire situations it is still human nature to hold onto some hope at least, no matter how slim.

Daniel did actually have a mobile phone at this time, however this was 1996 and mobile coverage in Australia was poor to say the least, in fact in regional areas I would say it was pretty much non-existent.

The best we could do was hunker down on the side of the road with the boys and hope, all odds against us, for a farmer or tourist to come along while we decided what we were going to do.

Due to both Rhys and Jake having been firmly secured in their seats throughout the journey they had no visible injuries from the crash.

Jake was absolutely fine throughout these circumstances, chattering away in his adorable little tongue twisted babble, all the time playing with his toys and continuing to ask, “What happened Daddy?”.

Rhys on the other hand, he was not okay, in fact he was not doing well at all and had shut down completely in a state of shock.

Staring vacantly and refusing to utter a word, I was desperately worried. Anyone who has known Rhys for any length of time throughout his entire life knows that if Rhys does not have something to say, something is very wrong.

As if the horrific nature of the Car Accident During 1995 was not enough, at which time Rhys was only 2 years old, the trauma of this accident just 18 months later most certainly had taken its toll on my little man.

Thankfully we had begun this long journey with Daniel’s parents and his grandfather in their car. At our last rest stop along the way Daniel’s parents chose to leave before us with plans to open up the property ready for our arrival.

Naturally after the accident had occurred we assumed they would have already made it to the property and at some point may come looking for us when they became concerned about the amount of time it was taking us to arrive.

However, somehow Daniel’s parents had missed a major turn that they were supposed to take and travelled quite a distance out of the way before realising they had missed that turn. As a result they were travelling quite a way behind us, instead of ahead of us as was the plan.

This was a journey that Daniel’s parents had been making for over 20 years, they knew the route like the back of their own hands.

How on earth that turn was missed by these people defies rational explanation!

As I sat there on the side of the dirt road with the boys Daniel paced around the car trying to work out our next move.

Suddenly headlights came into view travelling in the same direction that we had been before the accident. Of course we did not think it was going to be Daniel’s parents, so we readied ourselves to ask for help, hoping it was going to be a friendly local farmer who could provide assistance.

As it turned out, it was Daniel’s parents, all of us in shock as to how the accident happened and the fact that they missed a turn such as the one they did. The boys and I climbed into the F100 Daniel’s parents and grandfather were travelling in so that we could get to the property and settle the boys.

Meanwhile Daniel and his grandfather hunkered down in the wreck and dozed as they waited for Daniel’s father to make the return journey to pick them up.

Unfortunately the boys and I were in for yet another shock that dreadful night, as we headed to the property. Daniel’s parents, the boys and I, we then had the misfortune to encounter a wombat along the way, which was unintentionally driven over in the dark.

Had we been travelling in a sedan it would have been a major issue, but as we were travelling in the F100 at this time we went straight over the poor animal who scampered off before anyone could see if it was injured.

As if the boys and I were not already shaken enough!

Once we were all safely at the property it was time for us to calm our nerves and get some much needed sleep.

It really was one of those days you are just so happy to put behind you.

Daniel, Rhys, Jake and I spent a number of days at the property and flew back to Adelaide with the car to be transported by truck later during the week.

1996 - The Third Car Accident - Photo 4 - 3072 x 2048
Daniel, Rhys and Jake while we waited to board the flight home from Port Lincoln.

Rhys had been reasonably okay during our holiday but as it was his first time flying the shock of everything seemed to set in again. He sat quiet in his seat, his eyes vacant once again and not responding to me in anyway as I attempted to distract him through interaction.

Slowly after the flight ended Rhys began to liven some, but he was still clearly traumatised by the accident for some time to come.

For me, this car accident simply resulted in an exacerbation of all my pre-existing injuries from the first two car accidents and possibly did further damage that I was unaware of amidst all the pre-existing injuries.

However, I simply lived through that exacerbation as I had learnt to do as a result of the 1990 Work Cover Experience.

1996 - The Third Car Accident - Photo 5 - 3072 x 2048
Visiting the site of the accident Easter of 1997… From death springs new life for the tree that ended our night of terror almost 6 months earlier, that little bush at Daniel and Rhys’ feet is the new growth amidst the dead branches.

Sadly for Daniel and I, looking back over what is now almost 22 years as a couple, it appears this car accident would be a foreshadowing of our life together, a bad omen of sorts I suppose.

We married on the 1st of November 1997, our marriage one of perpetual challenge and misfortune from varying sources, each casting its own cloud.

Yet, as much as we have lived under those dark clouds, they have only served to bind us stronger together and made us all the more determined that our bond of love would never be broken by all that has and may come against us.

Even more sadly however, this accident become the catalyst to numerous events that would affect the family that Daniel, Rhys, Jake and I should have become. Albeit a blended family sharing custody of our children with our former spouses, but a far happier and more harmonious family than the one we became through circumstances outside of our control.

Which in turn also affected the lives of the children Daniel and I had together after we married. Joel and Ethan may not have even been a thought in our minds that day as we veered off the road, but their lives were adversely affected none the less by the wheels of destiny that were set in motion through the occurrence of this accident.

Still, the most tragic outcome of this particular accident went well beyond physical injury as Daniel lost what no father should ever lose, a father such as Daniel was and is should ever lose.

That was the right to be an ever present figure in his own son’s life. The relationship and the years of treasured growing father and son memories that should have been, simply never became.

Mercilessly, it was all ripped away from Daniel in an instant that night, the moment he lost control of that car. If the wheels were not already in motion for Daniel to lose what he treasured the most, they sure were set in motion through this accident.

By far, the greatest injury sustained in that moment was an injury that would not reveal itself fully for a short time to come, but one that would cut deep into the soul of a father’s heart, creating a wound that no amount of time will ever heal completely.

Decisions made following the accident outside of Daniel’s control, without his knowledge, much less his consent as a father.

Coupled with a legal system that holds no value for a biological father’s right to be the central father figure in his own son’s life, even with an acknowledgment by the court of the wrong being carried out….. Daniel and Jake’s father and son relationship did not stand a chance.

Personally I was pleased to see the end of the 1990s in as much as the car accidents went. Three accidents during one decade was quite enough. Wrapping Up A Decade of Accidents brings this chapter to a conclusion with an update of Rhys’ story, the legal wrap up and the first signs of progressive dysfunction in my body that were dismissed.

1996 - The Third Car Accident - Photo 6 - 3072 x 2048
Despite technically being a write off the car was repaired, much to our dismay, giving us no end of grief mechanically for too many years to come. However, looking at this photo it did not look too bad all polished up, for all it had been through.

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