Road safety campaigner killed crossing highway
By SAMANTHA TURNBULL
LEILA Packham died yesterday after trying to cross the road she had campaigned for five years to make safer.
Mrs Packham was walking across the Bruxner Highway outside her Wollongbar home at 7.30am when she was hit by a westbound ute being driven by a 24-year-old Alstonville man.
The 75-year-old was the third person killed in less than a fortnight on a Northern Rivers road where calls are being made for the speed limit to be reduced.
Liam Wright, 20, of Mullumbimby, and Reece Jones, 19, of Ocean Shores, were also killed after their car crashed into a tree 12 days ago on Mullumbimby Road, which the community is campaigning to have cut from 100km/h to 80km/h.
Mrs Packham was crossing the highway, 200m west of McLeans Ridges Road, to wait for a lift to Kyogle where she was supposed to play lawn bowls.
Alstonville Bowls Club representative, Joy Lowien, said Mrs Packham was being taken away in an ambulance when her team-mates arrived.
"We're all still in shock at the moment," Mrs Lowien said.
"She was always a very willing worker at the bowling club and always willing to help with anything we asked her."
Mrs Packham's neighbours were devastated to learn she had been killed after leading the fight to have a 100km/h zone pushed 250m to the west and away from their homes.
"She was a get up and go-getter who would do anything for anybody," said next-door neighbour, Heather Bettinzoli.
"She started a petition to get the speed limit down from 100 to 80 in fear of a child being hit, but now she's the one that has been killed."
Mrs Packham's campaign began in 2000 when she wrote to Ballina MP Don Page advising him of her concerns.
Mr Page said he wrote to the Ballina Shire Council three times in 2000 and 2001 on behalf of Mrs Packham and the Wollongbar residents who had signed her petition.
The council then passed the message on to the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA), which had the power to change the speed zone.
An RTA spokesperson said yesterday they refused to drop the speed limit because the stretch of highway was in a rural area.
However, Mrs Bettinzoli said there were a number of houses along the road, as well as a busy bus stop outside the Wollongbar Agricultural Institute.
"The road is an absolute nightmare," she said.
"The cars fly by here, it's so unsafe even trying to turn into our driveways.
"I feel the RTA has let us down. They haven't lived up to their responsibility and monitored the situation properly, now this has happened."
Mrs Bettinzoli said the RTA had not heard the last from Wollongbar residents and vowed to start another petition demanding the speed limit be reduced.