‘One in a million’ crash survivor returns home
A CROWD surrounded what was left of the little red car on the highway as an Alligator Creek farmer approached the wreck.
Brian Camilleri said when he heard the brutal sound of the crash at the Bruce Highway entrance to his farm he had no idea his close friend was trapped inside.
As he walked down the driveway, Mr Camilleri said he began to piece together the carnage before him.
On the afternoon of August 6, a Thursday, a red Hyundai was at the centre of a four-vehicle crash, the force of which ripped out the small car's engine and threw it metres from the wreck.
Mr Camilleri said when he saw the wreck he immediately realised it belonged to Maria Strong, his friend of 15 years and his employee.
The Camilleri's Farm Market owner said he felt helpless as he watched paramedics and firefighters cut Ms Strong from the wreck as she clung to life.
"We wanted to help as much as we could," Mr Camilleri said.
"You just have to let the paramedics and emergency people do what they can.
"That's something you wouldn't want to see happen to anyone, let alone someone you care about."
Ms Strong was taken to Townsville Hospital in a critical condition and was put into an induced coma.
Nearly a month on from the crash and Mr Camilleri said his friend had returned and was in recovery at Mackay Base Hospital.
"She's a pretty tough little lady," Mr Camilleri said.
But the ferocity of the highway crash has shaken the Sarina community.
Mirani MP Stephen Andrew said he had received a flood of Bruce Highway safety concerns since Ms Strong's crash.
"There was a cluster of issues on one stretch of the highway," Mr Andrew said.
"I'm getting more inquires on the highway post COVID-19 than I've ever had.
"There's a situation now where people are getting near misses all the time."
Mr Andrew said the August crash had "opened a can of worms" with residents reporting road rage, speeding, dangerous driving, access road issues and a dangerous lack of signage to his office.
A Transport and Main Roads spokeswoman said they met with the Mirani MP to discuss safety issues when accessing private properties off the highway between Sarina Auto Wreckers and Malin Rd.
"We are also reviewing the line marking on this section and clearing roadside vegetation to make the private accesses more visible," she said.
"Safety is our top priority and we are looking into warning signs to indicate the private accesses."
"Data over the past five years indicates a low number of crashes have occurred here, and 7500 vehicles a day use this section of Bruce Highway."
But for now Ms Strong's friends are focusing on her recovery.
Mr Camilleri said Ms Strong's generous, caring and positive attitude had been missed on the farm and at the markets.
"You'll never hear her speaking badly of anyone," he said.
"She's one of those one in a million people.
Mr Camilleri said she faced a long recovery period, both physically, mentally and financially.
He said Ms Strong would need help replacing the car totalled in the crash, so he set up a Go Fund Me page with a goal of raising $30,000.
He admitted with a chuckle that as a generous and giving friend, Ms Strong might not be happy when she found out he was raising money for her.
"She's not going to be happy when she finds out," he said.
The page has so far raised more than $5000, a sixth of what Mr Camilleri was aiming for.
For more information about the Go Fund Me page, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/please-help-us-help-maria-strong
COMMUNITY SENDS WELL WISHES TO MARIA
Joanne Parker: Prayers for a speedy recovery. I miss your happy smile at the markets
Thitima Wade: From Joy and May at Sarina Beach. Hope you get well soon
Isobel Gillman: Best wishes for a speedy recovery Maria
Linda Wilson: Hope your recovery goes well