Tears flow for pil­lars of com­mu­ni­ties

Sunday Herald Sun - - News - TAMSIN ROSE AND ED GAR­DINER

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.”

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