A single stretch of road between Pambula and Wyndham has seen more fatal vehicle crashes than any other in the Bega Valley over the past six years.
Mount Darragh Rd runs for around 50km between the Princes Hwy intersection at South Pambula to the boundary of the local government area at Tin Mine Rd.
It’s a 50km stretch that has seen an inordinate number of crashes resulting in death or serious injury.
NSW Transport Centre for Road Safety statistics show that from 2013-2017 there were 15 fatal crashes in the Bega Valley – four of those were on Mt Darragh Rd.
There were also a reported seven incidents resulting in “serious injury” on the same road and an eighth at the Princes Hwy T-junction.
Local Nine Network media has also reported on two fatalities since – a cyclist in a road rage incident that resulted in a court conviction for the car driver, and this week’s death of a 45-year-old Nethercote man in a collision with a cement truck.
In 2013, 17-year-old Bega High School student Kelly Wheatley died when the Toyota Hilux driven by her 19-year-old boyfriend overturned and rolled a number of times before hitting a tree and coming to rest on its roof.
The crash happened on a straight stretch of Mount Darragh Rd, 18km from South Pambula.
Kelly died at the scene, while the driver suffered minor injuries.
In July 2015, South Pambula crane contractor Nik Cetkovic died after the truck he was driving crashed.
Police were called to Mount Darragh Rd, Lochiel, after a semi-trailer carrying machinery overturned.
Police said officers from Far South Coast Local Area Command attended and located the driver, a 57-year-old local man, deceased.
On December 30, 2015, a 56-year-old Pambula motorcyclist died after a collision with a Toytoa ute.
Police from Far South Coast Local Area Command believe that an east-bound motorcyclist and west-bound Toyota Hilux collided head-on.
While first aid was rendered, the motorcyclist could not be revived.
As a result of the two fatal crashes in 2015, local motorcyclist and community advocate Glenn Cotter organised a meeting with the Bega Valley Shire Council to discuss ways in which the road could be improved.
Unfortunately, Mr Cotter was critically injured in a bike crash on that very road only two days before the meeting.
“I died twice on the operating table in Bega before I was flown to Canberra and was in an induced coma for four days,” Mr Cotter said.
“It’s ironic that I got injured on the road that I advocating to get fixed.
“Mount Darragh Road is a nightmare. It’s a treacherous piece of road with a lot of animals and also a lot of people who don’t drive to the conditions.
“It’s terrible that these things keep happening on the road but hopefully it will force someone to act and for the road to be improved.”
Not a car crash fatality, but in June 2018 a cyclist died after an altercation with a motorist with tragic consequences.
Merimbula cyclist David Brand, 72, was involved in a a road rage incident with Nathan John Cumming, 37, of Lochiel,
Mr Cumming pleaded guilty in Bega Local Court on December 18 to one count of grievous bodily harm by unlawful act.
Court documents state Mr Cumming failed to slow down while passing close to Mr Brand on a series of bends, It was claimed Mr Brand flipped him the middle finger before Mr Cumming pulled over with the intention of confronting the cyclist.
Cumming said he walked to the middle of the road in an attempt to stop Mr Brand, and when he attempted to step out of the way at the last second, both moved in the same direction and collided with each other, knocking both to the road.
Mr Brand’s helmet “impacted heavily with the road surface causing him to lose consciousness”, the documents reveal.
Mr Brand sustained severe injuries from the collision, including a fracture to his left skull, traumatic brain injuries including multiple haemorrhages as well as multiple rib fractures.
Mr Brand did not regain consciousness and died eight days later from his injuries.
In January 2019, a Nethercote man died in a collision between his Mitsubishi sedan and a cement truck.
Shortly before 2pm on January 22, emergency services were called to Mount Darragh Rd, approximately 3km west its intersection with the Princes Hwy.
The driver of the Mitsubishi Mirage, a 45-year-old Nethercote man, died at the scene.
The driver of the cement truck, a 59-year-old Cooma man, was uninjured. He was taken to the South East Regional Hospital for mandatory testing.
An earlier version of this article included the tragic 2017 death of Wyndham's Maya Mildwater. After discussion with Ms Mildwater's family, her death was the result of a subarachnoid haemorrhage and was nothing to do with the road's condition nor driver behaviour. At the time of writing, we had statistics on crashes and timing, not underlying causes so we apologise to Maya's family and friends for any undue distress caused by her inclusion in this article. Ben Smyth, editor
Other serious crashes on Mt Darragh Rd
Police, ambulance and the Bega VRA (Voluntary Rescue Association) were called to Mount Darragh Road, Wyndham, on April 1 after a motorcyclist crashed and left the road falling over a steep embankment.
The rider, a 44-year-old man from Beauty Point, north of Tathra was riding his Harley Davidson when the incident happened 1km west of Jones Creek Bridge.
Bega VRA captain Phil Dutton said: “The man was about 20 to 30 feet down the embankment jammed up against his bike which was jammed against a tree; in fact the bike saved him falling further.”
The VRA team used a basket stretcher to carry the man, who had a broken leg and possible pelvic and knee injuries, down lower to a track where the ambulance was able to drive.
The man was taken to Wyndham Oval where the Snowy Hydro SouthCare helicopter was waiting to take him to Canberra Hospital.
Laurel Powell, of Lochiel, suffered major injuries in a car crash outside her home early one morning in April 2010.
The car she was driving collided with another vehicle on Mount Darragh Road, east of Back Creek Rd.
Sergeant Cliff Scarlett of Merimbula Police said: “A vehicle turning on to Mount Darragh Road from a private driveway failed to see a vehicle already travelling on the road and as a result the female driver (in the vehicle that was turning onto Mount Darragh Rd) sustained serious life-threatening injuries.”
Ms Powell was airlifted to the Canberra Community Hospital and placed in the intensive care unit.
The other driver, a 19-year-old man from Lochiel, had a suspected fracture of the right knee and abrasions and was taken to Pambula Hospital.
A motorcyclist lying seriously injured in dense bushland at the side of Mount Darragh Rd, was lucky to be found, according to Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers who were called to assist in the rescue.
The motorcyclist, from Bombala, had travelled with another motorcyclist to Eden for the day and was returning to Bombala when the incident happened.
Travelling along Mount Darragh Rd, about 12km west of Wyndham, he lost control of the bike and went over the edge of a steep embankment falling about five metres on to rocks and in among trees and dense bush.
When his friend realised the man had not reached Bombala, he turned back along Mount Darragh Rd. It was by luck that he spotted a small piece of coloured glass from the bike’s blinker and stopped to look over the edge of the road and saw his friend.
RFS volunteers said that but for the friend’s sharp eyes, the man could easily have laid there unnoticed. Emergency services were called and RFS, ambulance and police services attended.
While ambulance officers stabilised the injured man and placed him on a stretcher, the RFS cleared a path through the bush that allowed the man to be carried back to the road and waiting ambulance. Police said the man was seriously injured but stable and was taken to Wyndham then airlifted to The Canberra Hospital.
Mount Darragh Road was the scene of three separate incidents in one July 2011 weekend, requiring the SouthCare helicopter, ambulance, Rural Fire Service (RFS) and police crews to assist.
In the most serious, a group of teenagers from Bombala were extremely fortunate to escape serious injury after their car left the road and rolled down an embankment.
Inspector Jason Edmunds of Bega Police said: “A 17- year-old Bombala girl was driving with three passengers. She was distracted by one passenger and as a result lost control of the vehicle on a slight bend, causing the vehicle to slide. The vehicle then left the road through a wire fence and rolled 10-15 metres down an embankment and came to rest on a creek bed.”
Wyndham RFS fire captain Daryl O’Pray attended the crash which happened at Mattaganah Creek about 3km west of Wyndham. He said the four young people were taken to Bega hospital. The SouthCare Helicopter was called to Bega hospital to take the 19-year-old and 18-year old males who had been in the back of the car, to Canberra hospital for further tests. All four patients were later released and the driver issued with an infringement notice for negligent driving.
Later the same evening, a 21-year-old Wolumla man had a lucky escape when his car overturned at Six Mile Creek on Mount Darragh Rd, 12km from the Princes Hwy. The driver crossed the bridge at Six Mile Creek and then noticed that the vehicle wouldn’t turn and hit a dirt bank. The car turned over on to its roof. The driver escaped injury but the car was towed away and will be investigated for a possible fault, police have said.
About 10pm on the Friday, two vehicles collided close to the intersection of Mount Darragh Road and Redfern Close, South Pambula. Inspector Edmunds said three vehicles had been travelling together when two were involved in a crash. A 17-year-old P-plater from Stoney Creek was given an infringement notice for negligent driving.