AAP and staff reporters
Four families have been shattered and local communities left reeling after yesterday’s horrific car crash on the Pacific Highway north of Ballina which claimed four young lives.
The local group of friends were travelling along the well-worn 30km stretch of highway from Byron Bay to Ballina, a notorious black spot, in the early hours yesterday when their car slammed into a tree and almost split in half near Newrybar.
Jessica Camidge, 22, was behind the wheel of the Hyundai and was joined in the front seat by 19-year-old Richard Wells. In the back seat were 20-year-old William Manton, an avid BMX rider and Ballina High School friend of Mr Wells, and Skennars Head teen Samantha Enright, 17.
Emergency services arrived to find four young lifeless bodies in the mangled wreckage.
Police believe the car was attempting to overtake a B-double semi-trailer over double lines on a deadly stretch of the Pacific Highway at Newrybar when it swerved to avoid an oncoming truck.
‘They missed the truck but lost control and heavily impacted with a tree, almost splitting the car in half,’ Inspector Nicole Bruce told AAP.
‘It was fairly horrific.’
Police say speed and alcohol were being considered by investigators as contributing factors to the crash. The Coroner will look into the crash and prepare a report.
APN Media reported that police were told by a friend of the four young people that they were travelling from Ewingsdale to Ballina to get a cigarette lighter.
The report also said the car driver, Ms Camidge, had a suspended licence.
Mate of the youngster, Russell Dickson, said families and friends were devastated. ‘My heart goes out to your familys (sic), stay strong,’ he wrote on Facebook. ‘I’m glad I got to get to know yous in such a short of time.’
Jennifer Wilkinson wrote ‘Rest in peace my beautiful sister’ to Ms Camidge. ‘Cant believe the tragic news, in absolute shock.’
The tragedy played out on a stretch of road that in six months would have been shunned by drivers in favour of an adjacent four-lane highway currently under construction.
The Tintenbar to Ewingsdale Pacific Highway upgrade has been a long time coming for the north coast community, which has grappled with countless road fatalities on the current single-lane arterial road.
The section, soon to be duplicated as part of the upgrade, has an 80kph speed limit and marked with double lines.
Yesterday’s crash is hauntingly similar to a crash in nearby Broken Head in 2006 that claimed the lives of four teenage friends when their car also slammed into a tree. It was trying to overtake a vehicle across double lines.
In 2010, three friends in their 20s from Ocean Shores were killed on the highway at Ewingsdale when their car collided with a B-double truck.
Last month, a 41-year-old man and a 72-year-old woman were killed in a crash at Woodburn, south of Ballina, on the Pacific Highway.
Yesterday’s accident has brought the number of people killed so far in the northern rivers this year to 24, making it the worst area in the state for fatal crashes.
Ballina High School offered sympathy for its former students Mr Manton and Mr Wells.
‘Bill and Richard were highly regarded in the school community,’ the school said in a statement.
Acting school principal John Douglas told ABC that the boys were well liked and quietly spoken.
Police say the tragedy should serve to remind motorists of the perils of speeding, drink driving or driving while fatigued and that such accidents involving young people were far too common.