THE victim of yesterday’s traumatic episode in the main street of Cowes, Peter McMahon, 74, has hailed as heroes, local real estate agent Greg Price and visiting former paramedic Renee Smith for saving his life.
Sitting up in his hospital bed at Monash Clayton today, Thursday, April 8, Peter said he had no doubt he wouldn’t be here today without their timely intervention.
“Don’t worry about me, I’m going to see that swimming pool built,” said Mr McMahon, Secretary of the Phillip Island Aquatic Centre Fundraising Inc.
“I was gone if they hadn’t done what they did.
“They’re treating me now. They think it might have been an electrolytes imbalance and the extent to which it has affected the heart, they’re working that out now. But I was out to it. I can’t remember a thing.”
Mr McMahon, who had just attended a medical appointment with his wife, suffered a severe, heart-related attack while driving his car, and crashed into four other cars near the Church Street-Thompson Avenue intersection as he lost consciousness.
First on the scene was Greg Price, a local real estate agent, whose Cowes office is located on that intersection.
He was soon joined by former paramedic Renee Smith, walking along the street with her two children, aged 7 and 10, along with her mother, and were only narrowly missed as the car careered backwards towards the footpath.
“I’ve got to say that shook up my usual calm in a situation like that. The kids ran one way and mum the other and I was thinking about them but could see the driver needed help,” said Renee, on school holidays at the Island.
Mr Price was contacted by the Sentinel-Times, after reports from eye-witnesses of the local businessman’s quick-thinking, believing both Greg and the former paramedic deserved recognition.
“I didn’t think. I just opened his door and started CPR,” Greg told the ‘Sentinel’ noting that his first-aid training, completed years ago, just kicked in.
“I was grateful I had that training,” he said.
“It’s a good reminder that everyone who has the opportunity to do CPR training should do it.
“The driver was indeed fortunate that a local paramedic was in the street and on the scene immediately. Thank god no one was hurt in the cars or on the street, and we’ve been told the man will survive.”
Mr Price was contacted this morning (Thursday, April 8) by Gippsland ABC Radio morning show host, Amber Irving-Guthrie, to discuss the incident.
“A local real estate agent immediately responded to the scene and helped revive the driver who was unconscious. And that man is Greg Price, who should pretty much be wearing a cape right now… so what happened yesterday afternoon?” said Amber.
“Yeah well, at about quarter past three yesterday, we’re out on the corner of Church and Thompson, yes a car came to the roundabout and the driver had a cardiac arrest. As he approached he rear ended the Land Cruiser in front of him and in an effort, probably, while he was still conscious to try and pull over, he put the car into reverse, with his foot on the accelerator, he came back in reverse through the roundabout, he hit a car that was coming out of the roundabout, a red Honda, and then he went flat out into two parked cars.
“Luckily, like the street was really busy with a lot of traffic and heaps of people on the footpath, thank God he didn’t hit anyone. There was lots of families and young kids. Anyway, when we heard the crash and the screams we went straight out. My offsider Chase Watters checked to see if no one was under the cars, because it hit them really hard. One was right up on the footpath.
“And yeah, I went to the driver. He was unconscious. I could see that he was, you know, in arrest. His wife was pretty distressed and said he’s having a heart attack. We’ve just come from the doctors. He’s having a heart attack.
“So, yeah I just jumped in and started CPR. Luckily, a local paramedic who was in the street, pulled up, and he was amazing. He sort of immediately started to set up and take over the scene and I was able to get through three cycles of CPR, and we then got him out of the car, and with the help of others, and there was an off-duty paramedic and a nurse who came as well, and we got him out, and they took over from me. I was pretty buggered by then.”
What was running through your mind when we heard that crashing and you realized that you had to help? asked Amber.
“First of all, I was just worried that somebody might have been hit, because, you know it was really a huge, loud crash. And then, yeah, so when we sort of checked that there was nobody under the cars or anything, that’s when I went to the driver’s side and he was gone, he was unconscious. There was no pulse that I could detect. So, I just thought well, but I knew, like, because the paramedic had pulled up, I knew that there was going to be sort of quick help for this guy, so I thought we’ve just got to try and keep him going.
“The paramedic was just amazing. He quickly sort of got the scene set up, set himself up first and then when we got him out of the car, he defibed him the first time, no response, then the former paramedic has taken over the CPR, and they got him again (with the defibrillator), and they got a response. And he then, after about sort of 10 minutes of working on him, he regained consciousness which I was pretty relieved about.”
The ABC reporter asked if there was anyone else injured.
“No, no, thank God, no one was, I mean it happened right in front of a restaurant with outdoor seating now because outdoor seating is all the rage of course with COVID and just thank God, if the car had gone, you know, another few metres, it could have gone into the restaurant. It just happened so quick and the car came back through the roundabout, at like quite a real pace, it hit the middle median strip and took out the giveaway signs and everything as it came through, sort of was almost airborne as it went over that median strip.
“In a way it was sort of lucky it hit the red car because that’s slowed him up a bit, and then he’s gone into two parallel-parked cars. And look, just thank goodness those cars were there because otherwise he could have gone straight down the footpath and as I said there was just kids and everyone.
“We’ve got a security camera on our corner here and, you know, you can just see people scattering in all directions.”
How terrifying Greg to experience that,” said Amber. “Yeah, it could be much, much worse. Have you ever had to perform CPR in the past?
“Only on a dummy. But it’s a good thing to have I can tell you. Like everyone should do their first aid training. I’ve got to go back for my renewal but yeah look, it all kicked in. I mean, like it’s a lot harder than the dummy, I can tell you.”
Mr Price explained how he performed the CPR but again stressed that everyone should complete the necessary first aid training to do CPR in the event that you were first on the scene and had to take action.
“You know it’s really all about the compression on the chest these days and keeping that blood circulating. He was a big guy, and we couldn’t get him out of the car at that stage, but we were able to get the seat back. And it’s just really, it’s quite hard compressions on the chest, and you really sort of try and get that chest moving.
Greg Price said he knew the driver and also several others in damaged cars and on the scene.
“I knew the driver and I knew two of the people that owned two of the cars and I knew the paramedic really well.”
He also praised police, the CFA and the other emergency services locally who turn up at emergency scenes in this and other country towns, often knowing many of the people involved.
Greg you’ve done CPR for the first time on a real person and you saved someone’s life. How do you feel knowing that?
“Look I was just one of many who were there to help. I mean it was, I think, obviously, that first few minutes are really, really, really critical for somebody. But yeah, look, I was just amazed at the paramedic who was on site, they’re just incredible people you know like just so organized. You know, he got out of the car and he assessed the scene, which seemed like a long time because I was in the car doing CPR. But they’re just incredible like we’re just so lucky to have those people.”
Renee Smith is delighted Mr McMahon is on the road to recovery, but even more happy that her children and mum also survived the ordeal.
“We saw the car hit the other cars at the roundabout and moved away but then it came careering backwards towards us, we thought we were going to get hit,” said Renee.
“The training helped me I guess,” she said, praising Greg but also the local paramedic for his efforts.
“He couldn’t have been any closer to the scene. I remember him putting on his lights as soon as the crash happened and I thought ‘good the police are here’, but it was the paramedic. It couldn’t have been better for the driver,” she said.
“But really, I was quite shaken by the fact that the kids could have got hurt and mum. I was a ‘mum’ in that situation trying to help and not a former paramedic. I guess I saw it from the other side which was pretty scary and feeling what it’s like trying to function when you feel like that.”
Both people deserve a medal, according to several people who witnessed what transpired.