A young driver who was behind the wheel during a car crash near Nethercote Falls has opened up about the impact the accident continues to have on the lives of her and her friends.
About four years ago Maggie Bramich was camping with friends when they decided to go for a drive up a dirt road in the area, to “have a bit of fun”.
At one point she decided to get in the driver’s seat, but when she drove around a corner she slid out on the dirt.
“Not knowing what to do I tried to correct myself, but by doing that I over corrected and I forced the car to fishtail, and we fishtailed into a tree,” Ms Bramich said.
She described the harrowing moment when checking on her three friends who were in the car to see if they were okay – one was in pain and it would be discovered had broken ribs and another a broken nose, while a third friend was unconscious and badly injured.
Emergency services were called and Ms Bramich was put into the back of a police car.
“Then mum got there and she asked police if she could let me out to give me a hug, but they wouldn’t let her so she came and put her hand up on the window and just said ‘I love you and I am here for you and I will be at the police station with you’,” Ms Bramich said.
“I had my mum looking at me sitting in the back of a police car at a crash site where my friend was getting put into an ambulance because of me.
I had my mum looking at me sitting in the back of a police car at a crash site where my friend was getting put into an ambulance because of me.Maggie Bramich
“I went to the police station that night and I made my statement and then I went home to try and get some sleep, but I couldn't because every time I closed my eyes I just saw the car crashing into the tree, over and over and over again.”
She was 14 at the time.
Her badly injured friend had been taken to hospital with what would turn out to be a broken neck, three fractured vertebrae and slight brain damage.
But for days after the accident Ms Bramich could not learn anything about her friend’s condition.
At the same time a relentless period of bullying began, with people messaging her telling her to go kill herself or that she should be the one with the broken neck.
“[It was] everything I was already telling myself anyway,” she said.
The visibly emotional Ms Bramich, who is formerly of Merimbula but now lives in Wollongong, retold the story to high school students from the Far South Coast at the RYDA program run at Frogs Hollow on Tuesday to help improve young drivers’ awareness of what factors can cause a crash.
She said she had been driving between 30-40kmph, had not been showing off while driving, but had a few drinks that day before getting in the car.
“I used to think ‘that won’t happen to me’,” she said.
“But it does. And it happens in a split second.
“[T]here’s a big difference between knowing how to drive a car and knowing how to control a car.”
Ms Bramich was sentenced in court to three good behaviour bonds. She said her friend with the broken neck only recently had her last trip to hospital.
One of the students at the RYDA program asked Ms Bramich how she recovered mentally after the crash.
“I’ll tell you when I have,” she replied.