HORROR STRETCH STRIKES AGAIN
A GROUP of truck drivers watched in horror as emergency service workers cleared the scene of a fatal semi-trailer collision near Tabbimoble yesterday.
The head-on accident, which claimed the life of a 52-year-old South West Rocks man, occurred in a notorious fatigue zone on the Pacific Highway about 15km south of Woodburn.
The name of the man has not been released.
One of the onlookers, who did not wish to be identified, said another of his colleagues had been killed in 2003 only 500 metres north of yesterday's crash.
"It's the road, it's a terrible road," he said.
"People don't want our trucks in their towns, so we're forced to drive along this highway and there's no space for us to pull over and have a rest.
"There's nowhere to have a coffee, no facilities for truck drivers other than a toilet between Ballina and Grafton.
"Of course we're tired, but nothing we say ever makes a difference."
Lismore duty officer, Acting Inspector Steve Parry, acknowledged the stretch of road was a well-known fatigue zone, but said the cause of the crash was still being determined by the Ballina Crash Investigation Unit.
He said the accident took place about 4.10am yesterday when the north and southbound vehicles collided.
"We assume one of the vehicles veered onto the wrong side of the road, but we are yet to determine which one," he said.
"It was the driver of the southbound vehicle who was killed, the other driver sustained relatively minor injuries."
The highway was completely blocked for seven hours as emergency service crews cleared hundreds of broken beer bottles, cartons of Ryobi power tools and nails that were being carried by the trucks.
More than 50 northbound semi-trailers were banked up behind the accident with no- where to turn, while southbound B-doubles were diverted through Alstonville along the Bruxner Highway.
The last fatal crash in the Tabbimoble area occurred in January 2004, when Sydney Swifts netballer Katie Bradstock's vehicle was involved in a head-on collision, killing her mother and a man from the Central Coast.
Yesterday's accident came just 12 days after the NRMA and Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils (NOROC) announced the formation of a joint task force to lobby for the Pacific Highway to be made dual carriageway within 10 years.
NOROC president Ernie Bennett said the tragedy reinforced the dire need for a dual carriageway highway.
"How many more times does this have to happen before the governments do something about it?" he asked.
"It's got to the stage where you can't talk to someone any more who does not know someone else who has been affected by an accident on the Pacific Highway."
Under the current level of State and Federal funding, the highway will not be made entirely dual carriageway until 2025.
Cr Bennett will travel to Coffs Harbour next Friday in an attempt to recruit more councils to the Pacific Highway task force.
He said he hoped all councils along the highway between Newcastle to the Queensland border would band together to fight for the completed upgrade by 2016.