This is a dreadful story, and 100% fact; I was there. My skin crawls at the thought of it, as my children, and those of our friends, are all around the age of those involved below. I felt genuinely sick just thinking about it; writing it his taxed me, and broken my heart more than I could have imaged, as I delved into my memory of the event.
“Come on! Get out of the car.” said Dad to everyone in the late model Mitsubishi Magna station wagon, as he pulled into the parking lot at the Blue Lake in Mount Gambier, South Australia. It is New Year’s Day 1990, roughly 10 am local time; the mercury pushing 30 degrees, not a cloud above to be seen. The family had been on the road from WA for the last week, this being the big family trip across Australia. Mum seated by dad in the front, providing navigational advice, general advice, and unwanted advice to each and all within the vehicle. Gracing the back seat three kids languished, two girls, 12, and 14 respectively, plus a 16 year old lad that, as a general rule, had a mouth bigger than was appreciated, and a brain smaller than needed to adequately drive it. The 14 year old girl from here in will be referred to as ‘M’.
“Come on, get out of the bloody car! You won’t believe how blue this lake is!” Dad again, standing, swatting flies, excitement palpable, in a voice loud enough to spook kids at 200 yards. “Come on, get on with it.” The car now parked.
“Dad, M won’t get out.” whinges the 16 year old muppet.
“M, stop mucking around, will you just get out. I haven’t driven all this way to see this only to have you dragging your feet. Come on!” Dad, subtle and sensitive as always.
A further minute passes, M remains unmoved.
“Dad, I can’t move,” says M in a pained quiet voice, “I feel really gross and I can’t move.”
Mum wanders around from the back of the vehicle, thermos in hand, floral summer dress flapping around her legs, and sticks her brunette head in via the rear passenger door; speaking in a low voice to M, she gently asking her if everything is alright. It is most definitely not.
“C!!! Get over here, there’s something wrong with M!!” is Mum’s startled yell to Dad.
Moving with a sudden urgency, Dad approaches the vehicle, concern starting to spread over his weathered farmers face. On reaching the car, and looking in at his middle child, he notes her exceptionally pale, ordinarily rosy, face. Her shallow breathing, pained expression, and the fact that her chin is now on her chest has him worried. Both he and his wife get into the rear seat, M wedged between them. Both doing their utmost to comfort her, hoping in vain to establish what has happened to their daughter.
Over the space of a lifetime, amounting to five minutes, M’s breathing worsens slightly for a further half minute, then starts to slowly improve. Finally, once recovered, M describes to her parents that she had never felt so revolting in her life, and still had a headache around her right temple.
Feeling well enough recovered, the path to the top of the volcanic crater surrounding the Blue Lake is slowly scaled by M, under the watchful eye of both of her parents. M’s siblings not showing the vaguest interest in her. Spending no more than a handful of minutes staring at the odd, surprisingly blue, body of water, their steps are retraced back to the car, and M plus family drive to the local emergency department. Yet on examination the duty doctor finds M in nothing but the rudest of health. Tests are performed, bloods taken, and M is held for observation for a couple of days. Her good health remains, and all concerned are left puzzled that nothing has come back from pathology indicating anything out of the ordinary. Finally, M is discharged, and the family continue on their holiday.
“How are you going for water?” Dad speaking to grandpa who is looking after the farm for us whilst we are away.
“Good, but I need to put your mother on.”
“Hello dear, how’s the trip?” politely questions Grandma. To which Dad grunts in response, “good.”
“Now, I have some urgent and terrible news.” gently says Grandma. Taking a deep breath, she continues. “J has been in very bad a car accident. Apparently she fell asleep at the wheel returning from a New Years party at about 7.30 New Years morning.” gently says Grandma.
“Oh no.” says Dad in a dread filled whisper. J being the 17 year old daughter of one of the family’s closest friends. Her father, the God Father to M.”How is she?”
“I’ve been told she was killed instantly. The only mark on the beautiful child was a bruise on her right temple.” continues Grandma in a quiet voice. “She must have dozed off, because it looks like her car drifted across the road and hit a jam tree at the join between the front and back door. It sadly seems that she banged her head on the steel loop that seat belt runs through, attached at about eye level next to the door.”
Silence Dads only reply.
“She ran off the road out near N’s, along that big straight there. I’m so sorry dear.”
It is on a sad note that the phone call ends on, Dad then steps from the phone box, quietly beckons Mum to him, breaking the dreadful news to her, and in turn, the kids. The holiday is cut short, and the family head back west, crossing the Nullarbor, and back into Western Australia, to be with J’s family.
On return to the farm, life, now somewhat less bright, must go on.
One evening not long after their return, children in bed, Mum says to Dad, “Something very odd came to mind earlier dear. You remember M’s turn at Mount Gambier?”
“Yes?” his frowned reply.
“That happened at exactly the same time as J’s accident.”
A mystery and a coincidence wrapped into one.
Click the picture. Retelling this has made me angry and sad and I don’t know if I just want to punch people or just have a good cry.
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2 Comments Add yours
Again, another thoughtfully written story and I like the dialogue and brief interactions of the family, you painted quite a definite picture in my mind with it.
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That yarn is 100% fact, and written from personal experience. There is, as is often the way, a bit more to the story that I did not include out of respect for the family regards the deceased. However, I really appreciate your comments, as I have never been comfortable with writing dialogue, thank you again. N.