UNTIL it affects you personally, life-altering impacts of a fatal road accident can be hard to grasp.
It's something Elizabeth "Biddy" Weel is aware of very acutely, and wants others to acknowledge without having to go through what she has.
Mrs Weel was the second person on the scene of a fatal motorbike accident at Goroke earlier this year.
On the night of March 12, the Lions Clubs Australia district governor was on her way to the Goroke's golf club on the Natimuk-Frances Road with her husband and a friend for a talk.
Before they arrived, they saw a woman standing on the side of a slight bend in the road and then a man lying in a gully nearby.
"We got out of the car and I said to the boys 'quickly lift his head up'," she recalled.
"I leaned down and I spoke to him and I said 'You'll be fine mate, we're getting help,'. He didn't respond but the boys kept feeling for his pulse and making sure he was comfortable.
"Then I raced up to check the girl and I said 'we'll get help'. She was struggling and I felt sorry for her. I raced back down and at that stage the man had closed his eyes, and they said his pulse had almost gone so I understood he had passed away.
"(Goroke police's) Jim Richardson arrived first and he started to do CPR straight away, then the CERT team arrived, and then the ambulance. We thought they were the professionals so we'd go on."
Witnessing the aftermath of a fatal crash had a profound effect on Mrs Weel.
"When I got to the golf club I tried to have a glass of wine and it just didn't taste right, all I could think about was that poor policeman has to tell the family," she said.
"Who's going to have a horrible night and few days after that accident? I was lucky I had my husband to talk through things with, but my friend was also very upset."
The Cooriemungle resident said she didn't just have sympathy for people affected by road trauma, but empathy.
She lost her brother Brian and mother Queenie when their car collided head-on with another car when she was 11-years-old. Her sister Mary also suffered serious injuries after being thrown from the car.
"It was such a shock. You go to school one day and you've got your mum and brother, and you come home after lunch and don't have them anymore," she said.
"I would have loved someone to have been there to support them, which is why I spent time with the man and woman at that accident."
Mrs Weel also stayed by her friend's side after a motorbike accident at Cooriemungle in 2015, which resulted in them being flown to hospital with serious injuries.
She said she understood how it could be hard for people to appreciate the severity and helplessness of road trauma that was all-consuming when you were first on scene.
"They don't know the feeling of 'what do we do? Do we wait for emergency services?', or worrying how extensive someone's injuries are when you see blood on their face, knowing you don't have the equipment that maybe could have kept them alive," she said.
Mrs Weel is now determined to prevent other people from becoming tragic statistics.
"My husband and I just bought a hotel in Simpson, and I will drive someone home if I think they're going to leave having had one beer too many," she said.
"When you tell them you lost some of your family in a car accident, it does make them stop and think a bit about that (road safety) message."
A Victoria Police spokesman said the force had a system of referrals it could make for bystanders to serious crashes if they consented.
"At the scene of the Nurcoung crash, local paramedics spoke to one of the first people on scene to give them some reassurance, but they do have access to ongoing counselling if they need it," he said.
Close to home in more ways than one
GOROKE Fire Brigade captain Paul Brook had four members respond to a fatal crash at Nurcoung.
A truck driver died when his B-double rolled and burst into flames on Nhill-Harrow Road at Nurcoung on May 19.
"An incident like that is hard to deal with for volunteers, let alone paid emergency services," Mr Brook said.
"In a small area, we might potentially know the person involved, which could make it even harder.
"I think as a group we banded together pretty well - we had an optional post-incident meeting where members could talk with Country Fire Authority support staff if they were having trouble dealing with the situation.
"Emergency services there also made sure members weren't exposed directly to the scene if they didn't need to be."
Mr Brook, who is a farmer, said the corner where the incident took place was 15 minutes away from his property. He said he had become more conscious of his driving in the area since the incident.
"Sometimes I think the shock of a tragedy reminds you things like this can happen to you or your community, and to be conscious of it," he said.
"Human nature is that we don't do the right thing 100 per cent of the time, but if you can just be less complacent that's the important thing."
- If you need help, contact Road Trauma Support Services Victoria on 1300 367 797.
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