Curing the carnage
FOR Doctor Ray Jones, the fight to improve the condition of the Pacific Highway is personal.
The Grafton-based GP, who drives on the Pacific Highway every week to work at Woolgoolga, is one of the driving forces behind Doctors for a Safe Pacific Highway.
He also knows what was involved in one of the nation’s worst highway accidents.
Twenty years later his recollection of the carnage is as vivid as it was yesterday.
Dr Jones, who says he was ‘a mad runner’ in those days, was out jogging when he heard about the devastating collision between a truck and a coach at 4am on October 20,1989, on the Pacific Highway at Cowper and he went to help.
“It was the worst traffic accident in Australia and it was shocking,” he said.
“People were in a dreadful situation.”
“It was just on daylight and I tripped on what I thought was a brick. It was someone’s foot.
“I had no experience of a mass disaster like that – you would only find it in a war zone.
“The ambos were not paramedics then and the doctors had to do everything.
“They kept putting the living in the middle of the road on blankets. The dead were in the paddock.
“We helped save the life of a young woman who was eight months pregnant and had a ruptured uterus. That normally kills you, but the hospital saved her.
“A lot of the emergency services people never worked again – some committed suicide.
“I don’t think I slept (properly) for 10 years after that.”
The Doctors for a Safe Pacific Highway action group, which now numbers 66 doctors as well as other health professionals in its membership, was founded last year by Coffs Harbour medico Dr Harriet Playle and Dr Jones to push for urgent improvements to the Pacific Highway.
Following a letter-writing campaign by Dr Playle and a petition signed by thousands of Coffs Coast residents presented to NSW Parliament, Dr Jones is planning a public meeting to mobilise support and direct further action.
DFSPH have already produced brightly coloured bumper stickers demanding a fix for the highway. These are available from the office of the Mid North Coast Division of General Practice in Coffs Harbour. Phone 6651 5774.