Christine Allred still doesn’t know how to tell her grandchildren their mother has been permanently paralysed following a multi-vehicle smash on the Barton Highway last month (13 April 2022).
Her daughter, 33-year-old Ash Allred, was driving from Yass to Canberra with her two young sons and was stopped at roadworks when her stationary car was struck from behind by a logging truck.
“I had called her the night before the accident; I had been wrapping the kids’ Easter presents,” Christine said.
“I had seen reports of the accident on Facebook, but I didn’t think much of it; it didn’t cross my mind it was her.
“That morning I was at Big W when I received the worst phone call anyone could receive.
“My life turned upside down.”
Ash, who is originally from Canberra, had been coming to the city to buy Easter eggs and go out for lunch with her sons, aged 9 and 5.
“Ash told us she’s started remembering the crash; she told us she did notice the truck coming, she said to her kids ‘boys, hold on tight’,” Christine said.
“She next remembers lying across her eldest son’s legs; she said to him ‘can you feel your legs?’ and he said, ‘yes mum’.
“She then said [to the other son] ‘are you ok?’ and he said, ‘yes mum, I’m ok’.”
While the boys weren’t hurt, Ash suffered multiple serious injuries.
“Her lungs collapsed; she has 10 to 12 broken ribs on both sides from the back,” Christine said.
“Her spinal cord wasn’t severed, but it was compressed; the doctors say she’ll never walk again.”
Thankfully, Ash’s then-4-year-old daughter was in childcare on the day of the crash.
“The police said if her youngest had been in her booster seat, she would have died,” Christine said.
“Her [five-year-old] refused to sit in it because it’s pink and Ash didn’t have his seat that day, she usually would have insisted but that day she let him sit in the middle instead.
“Thank goodness she didn’t push it like she normally would.”
Ash was placed in a coma and ventilated and is expected to be based in Sydney for the next six months. She has been in ICU and the family is waiting for a bed to open up for her to move to a permanent ward. Once she has recovered further, it’s expected she will come back to Canberra to continue rehabilitation.
While she has spoken with her children on the phone, they still haven’t had the chance to see their mum in person.
“We’ve been asking the doctors ‘how do we explain to the kids what happened?'” Christine said.
“We’ve been told to just let them know little things at a time, but be honest.
“But Ash is still so upset; she doesn’t want them to see her like this, with tubes and everything still sticking out of her.”
It’s expected she will have to rely on a wheelchair for mobility for the rest of her life.
But Christine holds out hope Ash will prove the doctors wrong.
“I’ve had two doctors tell me she won’t walk again, but I’m going to have hope for my girl,” she said.
“This year was meant to be her year to shine, but this has wrecked her life; it’s not fair.”
She said the crash’s impact has ripped through the rest of the family, who are grappling with its consequences.
“The kids are absolutely traumatised; they’ll remember this for the rest of their lives,” Christine said.
“I’m normally a happy, bubbly person, but now I’m so broken, I have panic attacks, I have such anxiety.
“I’ve been doing the guilt and blame thing; what if I had called her that morning, she could’ve been earlier or later on the road and this wouldn’t have happened, but then it would have happened to someone else.
“It’s been an absolute bloody nightmare; I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”
Since the crash, NSW Police has confirmed a group from Sydney’s Traffic Task Force was in the Yass and Tumut areas between 27 and 29 April, focusing on the Barton Highway and Snowy Mountains Highway.
A spokesperson said it was in response to “recent heavy vehicle collisions on both those roads involving logging trucks”.
A total 166 heavy and light vehicles were stopped (predominantly logging trucks) and 109 Traffic Infringement Notices (TINs) issued.
Of the logging truck TINs issued, 36 were for fatigue breaches and 29 for work diary breaches. Thirty-two TINs were issued to other heavy vehicles and 12 to light vehicles.
Random Drug Tests (RDTs) were also conducted, with three of 157 motorists testing positive.
Traffic and highway patrol operations commander Superintendent Paul Carrett said police would continue to focus on the heavy vehicle industry in the area.
The 70-year-old truck driver from that day has been charged with dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm (drive dangerous manner) and negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm and is scheduled to appear in Yass Local Court on 17 June.
Christine said while many locals have told her they’ll be at the hearing, she won’t be going.
“I’m staying by Ash’s side; I’m not leaving her,” she said.
“I told her when she was in her coma ‘we’ll take this one day at a time’ and she heard me; she told me she did when she woke up.
“But I hope they throw the book at him.”
Instead the family is focusing on healing and trying to work out their next move, setting up a GoFundMe page to help with travel and accommodation costs and supporting the children, who are currently with Ash’s ex-partner.
Original Article published by Claire Fenwicke on About Regional.