VETERAN: Ballina SES unit controller Gerry Burnage said you can never tell how much attending a crash scene will affect you personally.
VETERAN: Ballina SES unit controller Gerry Burnage said you can never tell how much attending a crash scene will affect you personally. Hamish Broome

These are the people who attend horror crashes on our roads

A VETERAN North Coast SES volunteer has spoken frankly about his decades-long experience attending tragic road crashes.

Ballina unit controller Gerry Burnage recalled the night some years ago he attended a crash involving his teenage son's school friends.

Two of the young passengers were killed.

"It's such a waste, they've gone through all that school and parents bringing them up, all that love and care," Mr Burnage said.

"And just like that it's wiped out, and there's all that suffering and blame.

"It must be awful for the parents.

"It goes through your mind because you knew them as little kids."

Mr Burnage will appear in a forthcoming film launched to raise the final $350,000 needed to build the Southern Cross LADS driver education facility in Lismore which partly aims to better train young Northern Rivers drivers.

The 33-year SES veteran said it was simply crucial for young drivers to be better prepared.

"When I got my licence my driving instructor said 'now you've got to learn to drive'.

"It's true - you're only getting the basics when you get your licence. (Good driving) comes with experience."

Attending crash scenes can have psychological impacts on emergency services workers, too, Mr Burnage said.

Before the introduction of SES counselling he had seen mates "break down" from exposure to the war zone of road crashes.

"I can remember when I first started... it was 'you're a bloke, you don't have feelings'," he said.

These days training tries to prepare volunteers for what they will face, but "you never know how you are going to react on the day".

Mr Burnage said road crash statistics inevitably failed to provide a full picture of the impact of road trauma.

"The stats they put out really only list fatalities, they don't list the ones that result in paraplegics, quadriplegics... and the impact on families and friends, the community itself, the ongoing treatment of these people."

"It affects so many people down the line."



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