SOUTH Gippsland made the worst possible start to the Christmas-New Year holiday season last week when a 24 year old Korumburra woman was killed in a single-vehicle accident at Koonwarra on Christmas Eve.
She was a passenger in a car driven by her boyfriend, a 24 year old man from Foster; the couple reportedly returning from late-night shopping in Melbourne when the incident happened shortly before 5am.
Police believe fatigue and not speed was the main factor.
The incident prompted an impassioned plea to holiday road users from senior police who attended the scene as part of the Major Collision Investigation Unit response.
Against the chilling backdrop of an upturned car, in the middle of the South Gippsland Highway, and all the signs of a tragic accident, Detective Sergeant David Newman said the incident would have a terrible impact on the families involved.
“We understand they were coming back from Melbourne after late night Christmas shopping,” he said.
“The driver and passenger were boyfriend and girlfriend.
“It’s a terrible start to Christmas.
“It’s a time of high stress, we know that, and there’s a lot more traffic on the road.
“People are in a hurry to get to where they are going.
“But for the two families involved it’s going to be a terrible Christmas for them and will be for a long time to come.
“At Christmas, at New Year we just want people to get to where they are going safely, as opposed to quickly.
“It’s supposed to be a time of celebration and we all need to be doing what we can to keep it that way.
“Don’t over-indulge, don’t be distracted, and don’t drive when you’re tired or affected by alcohol or drugs.
“Clearly with an accident like this, early in the morning, fatigue is likely to be the major factor.
“We don’t believe speed was a factor but it was in a 100km/h zone and when something goes wrong at that speed, the impact can cause a lot of damage.
“The collision has gone for over 100 metres.
“The weather conditions were fine, the road straight and driving conditions good.”
Det Sgt Newman said incidents of this kind also had an effect on the emergency services people who attended the scene, noting that his team had attended a fatality in suburban Melbourne before coming down to South Gippsland to investigate the fatality at Koonwarra.
“It’s really terrible every time there’s a fatality but more so at Christmas for the families directly involved and also for the emergency service personnel.
“They should be spending the time with their families, not with us.
“It just takes a split second at speed to get into serious difficulty. That’s why you’ve got to stay alert.
“We’ve seen it all too often. That’s why our aim now is to get the annual road toll down to zero but sadly this year we are going to finish higher than last year.
“You’re not going to be able to have that sort of impact on the road toll unless everyone takes responsibility for their actions. Don’t speed, don’t drink and drive and don’t use drugs and drive.”
The fatality lifted the 2015 road toll for Victoria to 251, one above the total for the whole of 2014. The toll presently stands at 253.
Local fatality at Koonwarra
THE South Gippsland Highway was blocked for more than eight hours last Thursday, December 24 after a fatal road accident on the Leongatha side of Koonwarra.
It is believed the accident occurred shortly before 5am when a silver, 3-series BMW, heading south, crossed on to the wrong side of the highway, 800 metres past Gwyther Siding Road, mounted an embankment, hit a concrete culvert and rolled over several times.
Police said the 24 year old male driver from Foster and his female passenger from Korumburra, also 24, were returning home after late-night shopping in Melbourne.
They said the male driver appeared to have fallen asleep and the female passenger, who may not have been wearing a seatbelt, was ejected from the car.
The driver, who received back injuries and was later airlifted from the Leongatha Hospital, reportedly performed CPR on his girlfriend but she died at the scene.
Detective Sergeant David Newman of the Major Collision Investigation Unit said he believed fatigue rather than speed was the main contributing factor.
“He’s maybe gone to sleep. We spoke to him briefly before he was taken to hospital and will be speaking with him further in the days ahead,” said Det Sgt Newman.
“We’re not saying speed was a factor but it was in a 100km/h zone and it only takes a split second at speed to get into serious difficulty.”
He said the police were continuing with their investigations.
Traffic was diverted around the location while police surveyed the scene. At one stage, a B-double truck loaded with hay had to be backed up the highway to Beilbys Road before it could turn around and exit the scene.
The deceased was Natalie El-Ali, formerly a member of the Korumburra Soccer Club, and a hospitality employee at Foster. A funeral service was conducted at the Faulkner Memorial Park Cemetery today, Wednesday, December 30. A memorial page has been set up on Facebook.