Coffs Clarence Local Area Command have commenced an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of a man in a truck crash at Urunga on Tuesday morning.
Coffs Clarence Local Area Command have commenced an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of a man in a truck crash at Urunga on Tuesday morning. Frank Redward

Pacific Highway's ongoing horror

“IT’S bloody terrible”.

That’s how a senior emergency services worker has described the shocking string of horrific smashes on the Pacific Highway south of Urunga.

Greg Newcombe is the Urunga SES rescue officer who stumbled out of bed to attend another deadly accident at 2.15am yesterday.

He’s been with the unit for 11 years and estimates he and his colleagues have seen as many as 20 smashes in that time – some of them fatal – on this terrible stretch of road.

“One day we had two people die in one car and that was about half a kilometre from the one this morning,” Mr Newcombe said.

“When are drivers going to learn to slow down and drive to the conditions?

“The Government is trying to do everything to get the road fixed but they’ve got to get it out of the taxpayers.”

Mr Newcombe said police and the RTA were also doing their best to urge motorists to take care but the message didn’t seem to be cutting through.

He also said it wasn’t easy for emergency crews attending scenes of carnage but the volunteers always went about their job professionally.

“You have to put it behind you and get on with life but it’s hard to do. I joined the SES because I wanted to do something for the community.”

When he’s not dealing with disasters, Mr Newcombe drives concreting trucks for a living.

“I have a very understanding employer who gives me a break if I’m too fatigued from my SES duties but you’ve still got to keep doing your job, especially up here where they’re few and far between.”

The owner of the Valla Beach Bakery at Nambucca Heads, Emily McCurley, said her customers yesterday morning had been angered by yet more highway carnage and the resulting disruptions.

“The reaction has been ‘held up on the highway again’ and the fact they’ve had to go past another fatal accident,” she said.

“You’re just very relieved that it’s not somebody you know or an employee who has lost their life.

“There’s just been too much death on the highway. A new road I suppose is the solution but that’s a fair way off.”

The Urunga SES was greeted by the chilling sight of flashing lights and an upside-down truck when they arrived at yesterday’s accident.

The smash happened on a notorious stretch of the Pacific Highway about 300 metres north of the Hungry Head turnoff.

Police said the driver of a southbound semi-trailer laden with ice-cream was travelling at an unknown speed in an 80km/h zone when he lost control on a left-hand bend.

The prime-mover crossed to the wrong side of the road and the truckie was unable to regain control.

The big rig toppled onto its side and slid along the road, slammed into a guard rail and careered upside down into a ditch.

The driver, who was still being positively identified yesterday, is believed to be aged 38, from Sydney.

He was the sole occupant and died at the scene, police said.

His load was strewn along the table drain and the accident resulted in massive delays for highway commuters.

Paramedics, police, the SES and the RFS attended along with crime scene officers.

RTA crews kept one highway lane open initially but they were forced to close it as they began the extensive salvage and clean-up operation, which took most of the day.

Traffic was banked up for at least five kilometres either side of the accident zone and traffic diversions were in place through Hungry Head.

The horror smash follows a three-car pile-up on the same stretch of road on Saturday when as many as four people were injured.

On that occasion, the high-speed head-on happened near Dalhousie Creek at 7.50am when a 26-year-old woman driving a Holden Commodore travelling south collided with a Mitsubishi Magna with two 59-year-old occupants.

A grey Ford Falcon, driven by a 32-year-old local doctor was also involved.

The Pacific Highway was closed for five hours with traffic banked up to 10km in both directions.


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