Memories haunt crash survivor after drink-driver collision

VICTIM: Caroline Tuohey was hit by a drunk driver and has backed a magistrate's plea to motorists to not get behind the wheel after they have been drinking. Picture: Anthony Stipo

VICTIM: Caroline Tuohey was hit by a drunk driver and has backed a magistrate's plea to motorists to not get behind the wheel after they have been drinking. Picture: Anthony Stipo

A DARLINGTON-POINT woman who is still suffering from the aftermath of a horrific car crash 23 years ago has praised a local Magistrate's plea with motorists to not drink and drive.

Last Wednesday The Area News reported how fed up Griffith local court Magistrate Shane McAnulty is with drivers who don't get the message that they are putting lives at risk when driving under the influence of alcohol.

Mother-of-two Caroline Tuohey said the story brought back a flood of memories of a fateful day in 1991 when the car she was travelling in as a passenger was hit head on by a drunk driver in Melbourne.

"I saw two headlights dead in front of us," she recalls."

Our car bonnet buckled into the windscreen.

"It was all in deathly slow motion and the noise of all disappeared."

Mrs Tuohey said after seconds in "nothingness black" she felt bad pain and couldn't breathe.

"I could hear myself gasping, fighting the pressure pushing on my chest.

"I couldn't breathe - I thought I was going to die."And the pain was unbearable."

A retired ambulance officer, who came to the now 42-year-old's aid, made a makeshift neck brace with a towel in a bid to support her neck - which suffered a C2 fracture.

After being given pain relief and oxygen, Mrs Tuohey was transported to hospital for scans, xrays and treatment.

"It was terrifying," she said.

There was a time when she thought it was better if she would die, Mrs Tuohey admits.

"I am so angry with myself for thinking this, but I was so tired of the pain and being frightened," she said.

Mrs Tuohey said when police officers arrived at her hospital bed they told her the driver who caused the accident had been charged with drink driving.

He recorded an alcohol reading of three times the legal limit.

"He smashed into our car after clipping a parked car and swerving.

"I felt hatred never before experienced.

Mrs Tuohey said while in hospital all those years ago she knew her life was never going to be normal again.

After three weeks in hospital and another 10 weeks in a neck brace

More than 20 years on, the brave woman, who spent three weeks in hospital and another 10 weeks in a neck brace, still carries the scars of her past.

"My life went on. A fractured sternum healed, a sprained ankle healed.

"I live a good, happy life. I am happily married, mother of two, nice house, safe, reliable car, excellent health.

"But few months after that terrible night, I became aware that no matter how good a day I had had, as I drifted off to sleep, I often had images of car accidents flash across my brain.

"Not the accident specifically, just all sorts of different ones, but with me in it."

Mrs Tuohey said the nightmares would find her in her sleep two or three times a week.

"I had hoped this legacy would diminish, but it hasn't," she said.

"I have been seeing these images for 21 years now.

"And here's another funny thing: At the driver's court case, it was noted he had no recollection of the accident. Isn't he the lucky one?"

The nightmares aren't the only scars Mrs Tuohey still carries from the fateful crash.

A surgery scar down the middle of her stomach will remain for the rest of her life.

"And I'm a terrible passenger," she said. "I'm worried about what other drivers could do."

Mrs Tuohey said her nightmare could have been easily prevented - if people would realise how much damaged they could cause to other people's lives when driving drunk.

"People think it's alright to have a drink and drive home.

"It is not all right."

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