WHAT was planned as fun day rocking with friends at Splendour almost turned to tragedy for a Lismore couple when an illegal taxi driver crashed on the way to the festival.
Jordan Martin and Laura McMillan were waiting at the Belongil Fields bus stop near Byron, on Friday at 2.30pm, when a woman in a silver van pulled up and offered the couple, and five Irish backpackers, a lift to Splendour in the Grass.
For $10 a person, the offer seemed too good to refuse - until what happened next.
Just before the Yelgun interchange, while doing 110km/h on the highway, was where 22-year-old Mr Martin watched the crash unfold.
"There were two cars in front, a little red car and a Nissan Navara ute that were almost in a crash, and the lady driving the van wasn't looking at the time, she was talking to the passenger," Mr Martin said.
"I saw she wasn't braking and yelled out 'slow down, slow down', and she hit the brakes at the last second, locked up and we ended up sliding and crashing into the two cars."
"It was the heaviest impact we've felt," the couple said.
Instinct kicked in and the couple, who were still in shock, climbed out of the damaged van to see several of the backpackers bleeding from injuries sustained in the crash.
Within minutes, a mate of Mr Martin's who was travelling to Splendour picked the couple up and they rendezvoused with some other friends who took them to Mullumbimby hospital to be examined.
"I saw a mate go past and I yelled 'get me outta here' and he stopped."
After being given the all clear by the hospital, the couple stayed at a friends at Byron Bay on Friday night, and while 20-year-old Ms McMillan was x-rayed at the Byron hospital on Saturday, Mr Martin reported the crash to police.
Still sporting bruises from their seatbelts, yesterday the couple said with the excitement of Splendour and the fact many others were catching private transport to the festival; they never considered the risks of riding in an illegal taxi.
"We were just getting a lift there and it could have happened to a Splendour bus," Ms McMillan said.
"It definitely was an eye opener, putting your life in someone's hands that you don't know," Mr Martin said.
NSW Taxi Council CEO Roy Wakelin-King said accredited vehicles required regular inspections and driver's regular assessments to ensure public safety.
"People using private vehicles without any authorisation are a risk to the public," Mr Wakelin-King said.