The Byrne Family
It was an exciting day for the Byrne family, parents Steven and Dianne had driven up the day before from Christchurch to Blenheim so that their 13 year old son Evan could take part in the Marlborough Gymnastics competition. Grace, aged seven, was looking forward to seeing her brother compete knowing he hoped to qualify for the nationals.
On that Saturday they popped to Havelock for lunch, they had a walk around the marina and the chef proudly showed them how to shuk mussels. Evan even ate a raw one!
It was then time to return to Dianne’s cousins’ home. They were away so the family were using the house as a base during the competition. They jumped in the car and headed back to Okaramio to get ready for the afternoon competition.
“We were just driving along then I heard a strange noise and looked, Steven had gone rigid – it looked like he was having a seizure at the wheel and his foot was jammed on the accelerator and at the same time the car started to weave”, Dianne explained.
Instinct kicked in and Dianne grabbed the steering wheel; they narrowly missed two head on collisions but she just couldn’t move Steven’s leg and the car originally cruising at about 95km was now doing well over 100km.
In the first instance the speed helped them as the car ‘flew over’ a culvert by the side of the road, rather than crashing into it. They ricocheted out of control rolling six or seven times across the paddock. Dianne recalls what the first police at the scene said, looking at the car, that they expected the very worst, thinking no-one could have survived.
Back in the car Dianne banged her head crashing through the side window. She came to and heard the voice of a woman telling her not to move (coincidentally it was the partner of the Chef who had just taught them to shuck mussels, she had left Havelock just after them). Steven was hanging from his seatbelt, in and out of consciousness whilst Grace was not moving at all in the back. Evan, aware he could fall on his sister managed to climb out of the car himself – later doctors commented that all of his gymnastics training meant that he instinctively rolled and moved with the car. His injuries were relatively minor with broken ribs, torn pectoral muscles and many cuts and bruises.
By now there were two Rescue Helicopters on the scene. Grace was in critical condition with a fractured skull – she was taken by the local Rescue Helicopter to Wellington and then on to Starship once she had stabilised. Steven was taken by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter to Wellington hospital suffering from brain bleeds. Dianne had a broken wrist and suspected fracture of her spine, she and Evan were taken to the local hospital.
Kath, our Intensive Care Paramedic, was on duty that day and recalls the scene.
“With the impact and force of the vehicle rolling in this way at over 100 kms per hour we knew there would be major trauma; thankfully they all had their seatbelts on at the time of impact and the airbags deployed. In that type of crash the body is flipping round but the movement of the organs is delayed. The mechanism of injury leads to direct trauma and secondary injuries – it is hard to know exactly what you are facing. Both patients, though from Christchurch, were taken to Wellington hospital as it was closer, and time was of the essence.”