The ACT Government has confirmed a roadside memorial by the Monaro Highway will have to be removed to make way for roadworks.
Over the past few weeks, almost all of the trees between the north and southbound lanes of the Monaro Highway near the Lanyon Drive turnoff have been removed to make way for a sprawling new overpass. Except for two.
The two eucalyptus trees are decorated with tinsel, flowers, photos and lights in memory of 14-year-old Susi Kopysiewicz and her best friend, 15-year-old Claire Sankey, who were left to die at the scene in 2022.
The girls were passengers in the rear seats of a maroon Toyota Camry driven by a 16-year-old boy – intoxicated and on his L plates – in the early hours of 9 October. He was trying to impress the girls by speeding when he lost control and slammed the car backwards into two trees at around 180 km/h. He and his friend in the front passenger seat fled the scene in an Uber. Police found the girls dead later that morning.
The boy was sentenced to 24 months in jail and a 22-month good behaviour order to be served upon his release, but the heartbreaking loss of the two girls prompted the memorial.
It’s far from the only roadside memorial in Canberra, to the point Roads ACT even published a policy document in 2019 specifically for Roadside and Urban Open Space memorials.
This “recognises the importance for family and friends to mark the location of a fatal incident with a roadside memorial as part of the grieving process”.
Crews only remove a roadside memorial if it “poses a safety hazard, impacts maintenance activities, such as mowing, impedes roadwork activities or underground services, is not maintained and in disrepair, or causes community concern”.
“Roads ACT will endeavour to contact the relatives of the deceased person prior to the roadside memorial being removed unless it poses an urgent safety hazard to the public.”
While it might appear the trees are set to remain despite the roadworks, a spokesperson for the ACT Government said the memorial on the Monaro Highway “will need to be relocated to allow the Lanyon Drive interchange works to proceed”.
“Roadside memorials are a sensitive subject for all involved,” the spokesperson said.
“The project team are currently engaging with a representative from the families of the two girls to identify an appropriate and safe location for the memorial.”
The section of the Monaro Highway at Hume is consistently listed as one of the top three most dangerous roads in Canberra. Despite the installation of speed cameras and signage, it is notorious as a speeding hotspot. In 2020, it was named the ACT’s worst site for crashes.
In April 2021, a collision about 400-metres south of the Tralee St intersection with the Monaro Highway at Hume killed rising CBR Brave ice hockey star Lachlan Seary.
The government hopes the new $70 million Lanyon Drive interchange “will improve safety for the thousands of road users who travel along this corridor every day as we work towards Vision Zero – no deaths or serious injuries on our roads”.
The roadworks are expected to be completed in 2027.