MO­MENT OF IM­PACT

Albany Extra - - Front Page - Jes­sica Cuth­bert

It was a split-sec­ond de­ci­sion to sit in the back of a car that saved Taleetha Por­te­ous’ life. Mo­ments later, she was in­volved in a hor­rific crash in Mt Barker, which killed her mum and best friend. Miss Por­te­ous is urg­ing all to buckle up to pre­vent another fa­tal­ity.

“I was scream­ing for my life — I was scream­ing for my mum and I was scream­ing for Dusty.”

The sole sur­vivor of a car ac­ci­dent that killed her mother and best friend has spo­ken about the most trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence of her life.

Taleetha Por­te­ous, 15, said the crash that changed her life had given her a sec­ond chance.

This month will mark one year since the hor­rific crash that claimed the lives of Lau­ren Cum­mings, 37, and Dusty Plum­mer, 14, when the car they were trav­el­ling in left the road and hit a tree on Woo­genellup Road, about 6km east of Mt Barker, in Novem­ber last year.

Ms Cum­mings’ daugh­ter, Taleetha, sur­vived the crash and re­cov­ered at Royal Perth Hospi­tal.

Taleetha de­scribed Dusty and her mother Lau­ren as the two great­est peo­ple in her life.

“My mum was my best friend, my ev­ery­thing and we had the re­la­tion­ship that every teenage girl wants with their mother. We had it all and Dusty was my sis­ter and the most en­er­getic and out­go­ing per­son I knew,” she said.

“I am so happy I got the chance to meet and be her best friend — no one can take that away from me. The years we spent to­gether and the mem­o­ries we made will al­ways be mine to cher­ish.”

Taleetha said the crash last year was the most trau­matic thing she had ever ex­pe­ri­enced.

“I was con­fused and I never thought that I would ever be in a car ac­ci­dent and I wouldn’t wish it upon any­one to go through what I went through,” she said.

“My mum had a ter­ri­ble sleep­ing prob­lem — I don’t blame her for the crash, she was the most sen­si­ble driver I know and this wasn’t her fault, it’s just one of those things — it was an ac­ci­dent.”

When asked what her ini­tial feel­ing was af­ter the crash, Taleetha told the Ad­ver­tiser all she re­mem­bered was the shock.

“I had this feel­ing of ut­ter shock af­ter the crash hap­pened and I re­mem­ber ly­ing in the back of the car and I was scream­ing,” she said. “I wasn’t get­ting any an­swers from them and that ter­ri­fied me. I tried to get up but my legs failed me.”

Taleetha said she re­mem­bered the mo­ment the po­lice of­fi­cer came to her side and re­as­sured her it would be OK.

“I re­mem­ber him say­ing it would be OK — that I was go­ing to be OK and I re­mem­ber him telling me that my mum and Dusty were OK, too,” she said.

“He didn’t want to tell me oth­er­wise — he wanted to get me out and later when he came and saw me in hospi­tal, he told me he lied and said when he found me, they were both gone. That was the best thing he could have ever done.”

Taleetha said she had come very far in this past year say­ing she had grown.

“Peo­ple of­ten ask me how I can talk about it and I just do,” she said. “I don’t want to not talk about them — I don’t want to for­get about them. It hap­pened. It was the worst thing in my life but I’m here to talk about it today. I am a sur­vivor.”

Taleetha said though the past year had been hard on her and her fam­ily, she was proud of her fa­ther and how far he had come.

“This past year has been so hard for him — I am so proud of him and how he has coped through this whole ex­pe­ri­ence; for me, it is al­most in­de­scrib­able how this past year has been. There are al­most no words,” she said.

“Some­times it dawns on me that I don’t have my mum here with me, that I will never have her by my side again, and that is the hard­est thing I have ever known.”

The teenager said her only mes­sage from the ordeal was for peo­ple to be care­ful on the roads, adding it broke her heart every time a life was lost in a crash.

“I want peo­ple to learn from our mis­takes and to put their seat­belt on,” she said. “We all think we are in­vin­ci­ble but we aren’t and I know that now, a seat belt will save your life.

“We weren’t wear­ing seat­belts in the car and that is the big­gest mes­sage I have to peo­ple — learn from my mis­takes and wear your seat­belt.

“Every time I get in a ve­hi­cle now, I make sure my seat­belt is on and I make sure ev­ery­one in the car has their seat­belt on — it’s the first thing I do.

“I am a few years off get­ting my li­cence and I have sworn to my­self that I will be the safest driver I can be. This ex­pe­ri­ence has shaped who I am, it has changed me and I be­lieve sur­viv­ing is my sec­ond chance and I am not go­ing to waste it.

“If peo­ple love their loved ones as much as I loved mine, they would tell them not to be silly on the roads.

“That’s the one thing I want peo­ple to do — make sure your loved ones are safe.”

Pic­ture: Lau­rie Benson

Taleetha Por­te­ous

Pic­tures: Lau­rie Benson

Taleetha Por­te­ous with pic­tures of mother Lau­ren Cum­mings and best friend Dusty Plum­mer.

Dusty Plum­mer and Lau­ren Cum­mings.

It has been al­most one year since the fa­tal crash.

Tributes laid at the scene of the crash near Mt Barker, which killed Lau­ren Cum­mings and Dusty Plum­mer.

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