Tina with Montana and Chianne at the scene of the accident.
Tina with Montana and Chianne at the scene of the accident. Bruce Thomas

Scars of a hit-and-run are deep

YOUNG Montana Atkins bares the scars of a cowardly driver’s recklessness on the roads.

The three-year-old still can not understand what happened to her, yet every time she looks in the mirror and asks why, her distraught mother Tina puts on a brave face.

“My beautiful little girl may be scarred for life, we are just so lucky she is still with us,” Tina said.

“I’m extremely fortunate that all three of my daughters involved in the crash are alive today.

“I just want whoever was behind the wheel of the other vehicle to know what they have done, to see the result of their gutless actions.”

Little Montana underwent surgery in the Coffs Harbour Hospital following the crash.

Doctors hope plastic surgery will reduce permanent scarring, but Tina admits some wounds will not heal so quickly.

The Woolgoolga mother has made a heart-wrenching plea for public information to bring the offending driver to justice.

The accident happened at Woolgoolga at the intersection of Newman’s Rd and the Pacific Highway on Saturday, February 26, at 9.05pm.

Her eldest daughter Cassie Burnes, 22, had taken her two younger sisters Chianne Atkins, 5, and Montana for the night, to give Tina a relaxing break.

The short trip from the family’s Woolgoolga home towards Coffs Harbour had life-changing consequences, even before the Mazda 121 crossed the highway.

Waiting at the intersection for a break in the traffic, the sedan was ploughed into by a silver 4WD, believed to be a Nissan Navara.

“I was just sitting at home when I got a text from Cassie saying Mum ring me – emergency.

“I rang her straight away and she said I have been t-boned and Montana has blood all over her face – I just took off.

“When I got down the road I saw Cassie carrying Chianne under one arm and Montana under the other, the car was a mess and we now know that the centre pillar was the only thing that saved them.”

In an astonishing act of negligence, the driver of the 4WD fled the scene, not even bothering to check on the welfare of the two little girls lying injured in their baby seats.

“I want this driver to know what they did.

"I want to say to them don’t be so gutless and own up.

“I hope more than anything that someone in the community knows who did this and helps police with the investigation.”

A sense of outrage and concern has driven Tina to pass on details of the offender’s vehicle to local panel beaters.

“A woman who lives nearby and witnessed the accident said she just walked outside, to have a smoke I think, when she saw what she thought was a silver Nissan crash into the car impacting on the driver’s side.

“The skid marks are still there on the road, you can see the driver must have been drunk, or affected by alcohol I should say.

“It seems he, and we believe it was a man, didn’t indicate, he just tried to round the corner from the middle lane at the last minute.

“The hardest thing has been keeping the little ones calm in the car ever since.

"It took us 40 minutes to get Chianne to school the other day, we have passed three accidents since and the girls keep saying ‘Mum we should pull over and help, the man in our accident didn’t’.

“They just panic, the worst thing of all is that Montana keeps asking me what happened to her face when she looks in the mirror.

“You could say it’s every mother’s nightmare, but that is a major understatement . . . my baby has been scarred for life by this.”

Police are urging anyone with leads relating to the accident to contact Coffs Harbour detectives.

The vehicle, thought to be a Nissan, may have been fitted with a nudge bar and spot lights.

Anonymous information on any known silver four-wheel-drives with damage to the front bumper and driver’s panels should be passed onto Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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