Tears flow for pillars of communities
SENIOR police officer Doug Fryer has made the awful journey to accident scenes hundreds of times.
But when the assistant commissioner, Victoria’s top traffic cop, stepped from a helicopter at 9pm last Saturday — at the site of a crash where four elderly friends died in one car — he wasn’t prepared for what he saw.
“It was incredibly quiet,’’ he said of the scene at Navarre.
“The four women were still in the vehicle. While it was a horrific scene, at the same time it was really quite surreal, because they appeared to have died of internal injuries. There was little external trauma.
“It looked like four women asleep in the car.
“The bit that I found really quite touching is we know death was almost instantaneous and the driver passed away while holding the hand of her friend in the front seat. “She did not die alone.” Gavin Barr was supposed to be celebrating his 39th wedding anniversary this week.
Instead, he and his two sons planted a rose bush in a stranger’s front yard to mark the spot where elderly everything changed. The ground was rock hard, and each of them had to have a go with the shovel.
Today will be the first Mother’s Day the trio, from Heywood, have spent without their beloved wife and mum, Dianne Barr, 64.
She was one of the four to die when their Kia Rio was T-boned by a Jeep as they were driving back south after a day of linedancing in St Arnaud.
Claudia Jackson, 72, from Portland, and Hamilton women Tess Ely, 74, and Elaine Middleton, 75, were, like Mrs Barr, pillars of their country communities.
Friends and family passing through the Barr home this week spoke of what a great cook she was.
“She was a master of making sponge cakes,” said her son Andrew Evans-Barr.
She was also known for sitting up in her husband’s tow truck at their mechanical workshop. “It was their chance to spend just a bit more time together. They were inseparable,” Mr Evans-Barr added.
Mrs Jackson’s family remembered a “beautiful, caring, fun-loving, cheeky wife and mum”.
The passionate volunteer travelled thousands of kilometres as a Red Cross driver, to help seriously ill patients in remote areas get medical treatment.
Mrs Ely is survived by four children, seven grandchildren and one greatgrandchild.
Ms Middleton was remembered as a dearly loved mother, motherin-law and grandmother.
The crash happened in darkness on AraratSt Arnaud Rd. On impact, the women’s Kia was hurled into the air, landing in a front yard where the rose bush now sits.
The Jeep driver, a 64year-old Stawell woman, suffered minor injuries.
Mr Fryer said: “You’ve got valued women of community … and they have been taken away. It’s a piece of the community puzzle that can never be replaced.”