Amber Quinn had lost control, her car sliding wildly off the road and slamming into a concrete pipe. She has often wondered how different her life would be if diesel slick had not coated the highway near Lakes Entrance on September 30, 1999.
Perhaps, when she met her husband Brian a few months later, she would not have found him as caring, or fallen in love so quickly, as he helped her recover.
Certainly, she would not have had to endure 15 years of migraines, surgery to her shoulder, injuries to her knee, back and neck, weekly physiotherapy, and losing her car and metal working business, which she had just started as an enterprising 22-year-old.
And maybe she would be a mother, instead of being so concerned with her own injuries that she never felt well enough to have children.
Ms Quinn hopes that bringing a claim against the Transport Accident Commission for compensation, after a long search for information about the accident, may help her recover. The search, inspired by Mr Quinn, included offering a $10,000 reward to anybody who may know the driver, or have seen the diesel spill.
The reward was posted on 150 notices in Bairnsdale, Swan Reach, Nicholson and Lakes Entrance, and advertised in local papers.
Locals came forward, and one remembered seeing diesel leaking from a 44-gallon drum in a cage on the back of a truck. The driver of the truck may have been transporting diesel taken from the engines of boats harboured in Lakes Entrance to Bairnsdale for dumping.
Mr Quinn met Amber, a friend of his family, three months after her accident. They were married little more than a year later.
‘‘I realise it’s part of the carnage that happens on our roads every day,’’ Mr Quinn said. ‘‘But we just want to get to a point where Amber will be looked after.’’
Ms Quinn said the oil spill stretched 17.5 kilometres between Lakes Entrance and Bairnsdale, and at least five other drivers had also ran off the road, but none had been seriously injured.
She said the man who had seen the truck had receipts to prove he had been in the area at the time, and said he wanted no share of the reward, even if the claim was successful.
‘‘He said: 'It’s not about the money, I don’t care if I don’t get anything',’’ Ms Quinn said.
‘‘It’s about trying to help someone whose life has clearly been changed forever.’’
She said it would not have been practical for her and Mr Quinn to have children, which had left them ‘‘broken -hearted’’.
If the claim was successful, Ms Quinn said she hoped to find a solution to her pain, that may eventually allow her return to metal work. She has not been able to put on a welding mask, or have the strength in her arms to make jewellery, since the accident.
Gary Trollope, from Perry, Maddocks, Trollope Lawyers, said the claim against the TAC seeks damages for injuries sustained in the accident and a significantly adverse affect on her quality of life and employment prospects. The claim will be brought in the Supreme Court.
He said the crash had been caused by the negligence of a driver who has not been identified.