For the love of Yaicha
By ANDY PARKS firstname.lastname@example.org MIA THOMAS lost her sister and best friend, Yaicha, who died when her car veered to the wrong side of the Pacific Highway south of Woodburn. Now, almost two years later, she is getting messages of sympathy from complete strangers.
Mia, 24, is one of almost 1000 people on the social networking site Facebook who have joined an online campaign called 'I support fixing the Pacific Highway'.
"I got three messages in a couple of hours from people I've never heard of saying things like 'my heart is with you'," she said.
As well as telling the world what happened to Yaicha that fateful night, Mia has included a link to a slideshow celebrating her sister's life.
"It feels good. Nothing can bring the person back, but it feels a bit better sharing the feeling," she said of x getting involved with the online campaign.
The Facebook group was started by NSW's largest business network, the NSW Business Chamber, and has already gained the support of the State National Party leader Andrew Stoner and Federal Liberal frontbencher, Joe Hockey.
According to the Northern Rivers manager of the NSW Business Chamber, Sharon Cadwallader: "It has been nearly 20 years since the initial call to action to make the Pacific Highway safe to travel on after two horrible bus crashes in Kempsey and Grafton cost 55 people their lives, and the upgrades are still not finished."
On March 31, 2006, 24-year-old Yaicha Thomas was travelling from her family home in Ewingsdale to see friends in Sydney. According to Mia, the road was 'a bit wet, but not torrential' when her sister lost control.
"There was no barrier on the road and she swerved on to the wrong side and had a head-on with a campervan.
"It was devastating. I said goodbye in the morning and I thought I would be speaking to her with her friends that night. When we got the phone call from the police I remember wanting to think they were lying, that she would be OK."
Yaicha had just finished studying to be beautician when the accident occurred.
"She was such a beautiful soul. One of those people you meet and remember for the rest of your life. She was so smiley and happy," Mia said.
Mia Thomas believes the Facebook site can put additional pressure on governments to act.
"I think it can help. It's one of the most widely-used forms of Internet and media in the world. I've sent it to all my friends and told them to send it to all their friends," she said.
Mia said she would like to see barriers or median strips built along the highway to stop further head-on collisions.
She has written a touching message on the Facebook site which ends: "May her memory live on and may her life not just be remembered as a statistic ... RIP my beautiful sister."
Chairman of the Northern Regional Organisation of Councils Pacific Highway taskforce, Ernie Bennett, said $2.4 billion has been allocated by the Federal Government between 2009 and 2014 to upgrade the highway.
He would like to see a dual carriageway from Hexham to the Queensland border by 2016.
He believes if the State Government matches the Federal Government's contribution, it would be achievable.