Chopper saved my life
HAYDEN Smith was slumped in the back seat of a mangled car, unconscious.
His family thought he was dead.
Eight months on, the Banora Point teenager is still recovering from the horrific crash that landed his entire family in hospital.
He now credits his survival to the swift response of emergency crews following the accident, and the assistance of the Westpac Life Saver Rescue helicopter that airlifted him to hospital.
While others were celebrating the New Year, the dramatic three-car crash on the Pacific Highway near Woodburn marked the start of a traumatic 2009 for the Smith family.
Heading back to Tweed after a holiday in Sydney, Margaret and David and their sons Hayden, 15, and Darren, then 16, were travelling in a Honda Accord when it crashed, spun out of control, travelled down an embankment and struck trees just before 2pm.
Hayden, who took the brunt of the impact, suffered the most serious injuries and had to be airlifted to Lismore Base Hospital.
With suspected spinal injuries, a fractured arm and internal bruising, he was in immense pain.
The crash left seven people, including the Smiths, injured.
“We were trapped for about 45 minutes,” Mrs Smith said.
“We couldn't get out of the car. We were on three wheels balancing and they had to cut all the trees down to get us out.
“Hayden was unconscious in the back and we all thought he was dead.
“His brother was screaming at him to wake up. It was horrible.”
Mr Smith said a line of traffic was heading the opposite way on the two-lane stretch of highway, when one car pulled into oncoming traffic in a bid to overtake.
The car went into the Smiths' lane and came travelling toward them at high speed.
“It was the middle of the afternoon on a lovely day, there wasn't a cloud in the sky,” said Mr Smith, who was driving that day.
“There was a car coming right at us. I swerved to avoid an absolute head-on at 100km/h.
“He was in my lane coming straight at me and I veered to miss him but there was no room so we clipped the back of the car.”
The impact saw their car spin around, hit a second car and crash into bushland.
“Even the tow truck drivers said two of us should have died,” Mr Smith said.
“I don't remember, but I was told we did three 360s (degree turns) down the Pacific Highway.
“We were really lucky, considering we were hitting cars at 100km/h.”
Mrs Smith suffered five broken ribs in the crash, while her husband and Darren both had fractures of their own.
Ambulance crews from Lismore, Evans Head and Maclean attended the crash and the rescue chopper landed on the roadway nearby.
“It all happened so fast,” Mrs Smith said. “I had to take a very bumpy ride to hospital with broken ribs.
“But the ambulance service was so good, they kept telling me where Hayden was, kept me updated.
“They responded so quickly and I can just remember the feeling that someone was there to help us.”
For her husband, it was the great care and the polite bedside manner with which the helicopter paramedics treated his son that really made an impact.
“The Westpac boys were so good,” he said. “They were so gentle and so caring.”
Hayden said he too wanted to thank those that helped save his life, so he is asking Tweed residents to dig deep this week and help support the Westpac Life Saver Rescue helicopter.
“I don't really remember much,” the quiet teenager said of the experience, but added that he still gets nervous when travelling in cars.
Donations to the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter can be made at any Westpac bank, online at www.helirescue.com.au or by calling (02) 6627 4444.